It has been a week of sickness at my house. Our little girl has RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus) – a potentially dangerous infection of her respiratory system. My wife and I both have colds – the annoying kind that just wears one out without much external symptoms. If our house was a ship – we would be flying a yellow flag and anchored outside the harbor.
There is no treatment for RSV or the common cold. They are both virus related. The only thing that can be done is treat things symptomatically. Breathing treatments, Tylonol, and nasal suction for the baby – and Advil Cold and Flu for the adults. Our baby is doing fine – and responding well to things. Her parents on the other hand…
All this leads me to reflect upon Jesus’ conversation with the wise teacher of the Law.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”…But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. -John 3:5,21
Unlike my virus – which is now firmly and comfortably at home in my nasal passages – there are things in our lives that cannot be treated symptomatically – however hard we try. There are support groups for every kind of addiction. Government programs for childhood obesity. Self-help books to give us a better and brighter self-image. And in the end – while all these things can be helpful – none of them really accomplish a thing. We can treat the alcoholism, we can stop looking at dirty pictures on the net – but unless the underlying sin is brought to bay – nothing lasting will be brought about. Self-help books, support groups, or just plain willpower will not change nor heal what is beyond help – our very souls.
In his conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus was adamant about the impossibility of seeing the Kingdom of God without first treating the underlying problem – our inherent sinfulness. To further compound the problem – the only way that disobedience can be taken care of is to throw out everything and start again. The old nature won’t work – and cannot be patched – that is Christ’s message. Unless we are born again by the Spirit of God – not wiped clean but MADE clean – then we will never see the Kingdom of God – in this lifetime nor the next.
Only then – when the old has been destroyed and the new in place – then can we do the things that will bring us out of darkness. Only with the imperishable seed of Christ can we see our problems for what they are – sinfulness Only with the Spirit can we overcome these problems – not for our own health – but for the greater glory of God.
Where are you today? Have you struggled constantly with actions and attitudes – but never seem to get peace? Do you replace one addiction with another, or go from program to program seeking happiness. Quit trying to treat it symptomatically – it cannot be done. Seek instead the love and forgiveness of Jesus.
Off to take another Advil…