We have all watched endless pharmaceutical commercials. They draw us in, peak our interest, and promise great results before quickly raddling off the potential side effects. The benefits must be weighed against the potential side effects. Some side effects seem worse than the illness. Like medicine, sin seems appealing, but sin also comes with dangerous side effects. Wouldn’t it be helpful if sin came labeled with its deadly side effects. Please read more.
Using myself as an example, I want to draw an analogy between the side effects of medicine and the side effects of sin. Bear with me as we plow our way though the medical part first. It is not my intent to draw undo attention to myself. My goal is to use this analogy to make a very important spiritual point.
I have a very rare autoimmune illness that attacks, demyelinates and destroys my brain, spinal and optic nerves. The goal of treatment is to slow down the disease. There is no cure. My doctor first prescribed a drug that had a long list of serious side effects including death or severe disability. After weighing the alternatives, I opted for treatment. In time, this drug proved to be ineffective. The next drug had an even longer list of serious physical as well as psychological side effects. This time, I did in fact experience a serious negative reaction and the treatment had to be discontinued.
There was only one treatment alternative left. I start that treatment next week. Like the others, it comes with a laundry list of serious and less serious side effects. Notably, this list includes a rise in blood pressure, which can lead to an increase in the risk of heart attack or stroke. It can also increase the risk of blood clots. With input from my wife, I had to choose between the deteriorating impact of the disease and the potential negative side effects of this treatment. This is not unique to me. Everyone reading this who has dealt with a severe disease, or had a loved one with a serious illness, knows this difficult decision making process all too well.
Okay, enough about me, and enough medical jargon. What does all of this have to do with our spiritual lives? Medically speaking, we are drawn into choosing a particular medicine because of its potential to cure or at least mitigate our illness. In other words, the medicine appeals to the outcome we seek. Likewise, the hideous nature of sin is that it draws us into believing that it will cure or mitigate some problem, or that it will, in some way, provide us pleasure or some appealing outcome. Unlike medicines, there are no commercials that list the negative side effects of sin. However, the Bible is quite clear that all sin has negative side effects! Romans 6:23 states, “the wages of sin is death.” Isaiah 59:2 tells us our sins separate us from God and cause Him to hide His face from us. I cannot imagine any side effects worse than death and separation from God.
Sadly, all Christians experience moments when they become so enthralled by the allure of sin that they either forget about its consequences or simply choose to ignore its side effects. The end result is spiritually harmful. Praise God that Jesus is the universal antidote for our sins.
Since it is wise to investigate the potential side effects before choosing medical treatment, I wonder what the outcome would be if we contemplated the side effects of sin before engaging in it. For example, imagine that before someone stole from their employer, they were forced to read the list of side effects. These might include the following: loss of employment, arrest, incarceration, alienation from your family, public embarrassment and shame all in addition to separation from God. I would hope that after a detailed review of the negative side effect, this person would choose not to commit this act. I hope this would be true for all sin.
In conclusion, I do think it would be beneficial for us all to reflect on the side effects of our sins. To that end, I am suggesting the following spiritual exercise. Lent starts soon. It would be an ideal time to complete this.
- Make a list with two columns.
- In column one, list your most frequently recurring sins.
- In column two, list all of the potential negative side effects associated with each sin.
- Reflect on this list daily.
- Prayerfully ponder this passage from 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22. “Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.”
Heavenly Father, I know all sin has consequences. Yet, in my weakness I still give into sin. Help me to be more mindful of the side effects of my sin. I know that in addition to offending you, for which I am deeply sorry, my sins have a negative impact on me, on others, and they cause harm to the Body Of Christ. Grant me the strength to overcome my weaknesses and and the grace to avoid the nearest occasion to sin. Amen!
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