This is a message written on 7 April 2020, which was day twelve of the unprecedented Coronavirus lock down in South Africa.
Many people are generally willing to comply with the advice from so-called “experts” and for precautionary measures to withdraw from their daily routine and social contact so as to self-isolate, to wear facial masks and gloves, to wash and disinfect their hands frequently and to practice social distancing to avoid being infected with the Corona virus.
However, the mortality rate of human beings is one hundred percent. The only cure from sin is complete distancing from the old life governed by the desires of the flesh which is habitually enslaved to sin. The only way to forsake the old life of sin is to be raised to a completely new life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Through faith in Jesus, God will put his Spirit in those who believe the good news of the kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit will sanctify us and raise us up to a completely new life set free from sin – but we must respond in faith and humility.
However, sin is so familiar to our old nature and extremely contagious. It spreads like yeast and false teachings and distortions of the gospel which keep people still in bondage also spreads like devastating and highly contagious gangrene. With the even greater concern than that of isolating and stopping the spread of the Corona virus, we should take every possible step to rid our lives and the church community of sin.
The wages of the righteous is life, but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death (Proverbs 10:16).
When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:20-23).
Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth (2 Timothy 2:16-18).
In this time of social awareness of the highly contagious virus, let us again consider the far more important lesson of taking extra care to avoid sin which so easily entangles. If we tolerate the slightest sin as being normal to our human nature, it will quickly spread like yeast. The illustrative practice under the Old Covenant was to search the house extremely thoroughly for the slightest traces of yeast and to completely rid our homes of the smallest amount of yeast – which is figurative of sin.
Quite often we may be unaware of our own sin and should welcome correction from others. We should also offer ourselves to God to examine our hearts and minds so that we may be cleansed. Guilt may often cause people to hide from God and in turn God he will hide himself from sinners. Instead we should confess our sin, come to the Light and receive forgiveness and be reconciled to God and to one another in genuine love and compassion.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:14).
When we detect sin in others, we should gently bring correction taking great care that we too do not stumble – rather than bigoted, self-righteous condemnation. The inhuman concept of social distancing and isolation is contrary to human nature. It is contrary to God’s purpose of creating one new humanity in which he lives by his Spirit. Social distancing is usually the means of punishment by imprisonment and to keep the offender from harming other people. Solitary confinement was a further measure of an even more harsh punishment and even torture.
However, to superficially interact with one another, never daring to draw attention to sin and disobedience, is a way of life which most people prefer and thus they often avoid correction or offering correction. We keep social distancing with the often unspoken attitude of, “Mind your own business. You live your life and I’ll live mine.” But all of humanity suffers on account of sin and rebellion against God. The impact of our sin is upon humanity and the whole community suffers.
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted (Galatians 6:1).
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:26-27).
Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (Hebrews 12:1-4).
Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people (1 Corinthians 5:6-11).
In this time of what has been declared a global pandemic, people are being reminded to practice social distancing and self-isolation. However, the verses quoted above from Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth quite clearly exhorts believers to be discerning, to know those with whom they fellowship and to not even share a meal together with professing Christians who are themselves defiled with obvious sin. Our tendency of showing grace and mercy has often been distorted to imply that we are all always defiled sinners and remain such even though we are exhorted to live holy lives and be sanctified by the Holy Spirit – and thus, we put up with sin.
For related articles please see my five part series entitled, “Be Holy” at this link Be Holy