He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love (Ephesians 4:14-16).
The H1N1 pandemic – Swine flu – has gone global. Most cases are not critical, but some have proven deadly, especially when the virus weakens an otherwise healthy immune system and the patient contracts a secondary bacterial infection.
H1N1 is also a parable. There’s a wider spiritual lesson to take from the microscopic conspiracy playing out inside the body of anyone of us who battles this sickness. Greg Berglund, a pastor and medical doctor, recently gave me a crash course in virology. What he told me shed new light on the Biblical picture of the church as the “Body of Christ” and the need for that “Body” to sustain health.
Viruses, Greg tells me, are fragments of human DNA and RNA. They are not themselves “alive.” Scientists call them “obligate parasites,” because they are obligated to rely on living cells for mobility and regeneration. Viruses like H1N1 attach themselves to cells and “trick” them into allowing them inside their nucleus. The cell reads the human components of the viruses DNA sequence and wrongly determines its safety. In isolation, a virus has NO potency. But once it hijacks a healthy cell it will ransack the nucleus, and force it to reproduce and distribute copies of the virus’s code. These copies then repeat the process, and the disease spreads.
Again, viruses have no power unless they are invited in. If the body’s wider immune system fails to detect, early on the true identity of the invader, the individual cell loses the battle – every time. In other words if the Body isn’t healthy, the individual won’t survive an assault from a contaminated environment.
Catch the lesson here? Evil forces in the world want to hijack our lives to reprogram our destiny and spread their corruption. There’s a real devil out there a he’s intent on spewing a pandemic of destruction. His weapon – sin – has no power in itself unless, and until, we allow it inside. Once we do, our internal DNA is corrupted and we’re afflicted with a “disease” that compromises our intent. As individuals we can be fooled into opening the door to sin’s infection. Our one hope: a healthy immune system IN THE WIDER BODY of which we are a part. This collective effort can spot the danger and snuff it out, either before infection or if need be, in an all out war after it hits.
As individual cells can’t survive alone in a hostile environment – they must be part of a healthy body with a vibrant immune system – so we as human individuals can’t survive in a world teaming with spiritual viruses unless we’re connected in a healthy Body – what the Bible calls the “Body of Christ.”
Paul’s analogy in Ephesians 4 (above) drives this point home. Throughout his letters Paul uses the phrase “Body of Christ” to describe the entity created when followers of Jesus gather. The Christian community is a LIVING ENTITY. We are individually members – “cells” or “organs” – in this larger system, and Jesus is the “Head.” Together, we make up the presence of Christ himself again on the earth. You and I have a corporate identity that is just as vital and eternal as our individual identity. As Christians we are a “me” and we are an “us.”
We live in a dangerous world. Look around. Americans today are more angry, fearful and pessimistic than at any time in our collective memory. There’s a pending sense of danger and doom. Something dangerous seems waiting in the wings, a pandemic of paranoia. Do you feel it?
How can we survive living in this toxic environment? We make friends, come together, and secure our relationships with other followers of Jesus. We MUST connect in with a healthy body, a Church community. If we don’t stand together in times like this we won’t stand. There is a devil out there and he’s strategizing to take us down, cell (or individual) by cell. Without the immune system of the whole Body we’re toast…
Application: Get connected with other followers of Jesus! If you’re fighting alone, you’re bound to lose. Prayer is multiplied in power when we agree with others and make it a collective petition to God. Make this a top level priority right now. Get tied into a community of Christians and leverage the whole immune system of that Body to help you stand against the infection of a dangerous environment. Procrastinating on this can have deadly results!
“God, unite us with each other. We need the power of our collective faith to help us stand against the strategies of the Devil. I pray for every person reading this, that we will find a specific group – even a small group – of fellow followers of Jesus to help us detect and fight the viruses of the enemy. Give us courage and determination to make the changes in our lives necessary to find and cultivate these relationships. Thank you for providing this for us. Thank you for giving us friends. You tell us that life is a team sport. Place us in that team! In Jesus!…”