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Friday, July 23, 2010

How Sin Acts Like a Virus

We all know there are bacteria, pathogens and other microscopic organisms in our bodies right now that can kill you. As long as each of those simple life forms stays in the region of the body they’re supposed to, they're not a threat. 

However, if they spread or move out of their “designated area” – that’s where the trouble begins. For instance if the e-coli bacteria in your lower intestines was somehow introduced farther up your digestive track there is a strong likelihood that you would get very sick and even die – that is a fact of this life we live. That potential for death abides in all of us right now, that’s how we were created.

In addition, there are dozens of more common microorganisms and viruses all around (and inside the body) that could kill you as well…if it wasn’t for something else we were created with – that something else is our immune system. The immune system is one of the best defenses we have against sickness and disease.

There are many facets and aspects of the immune system, which are very complex – but basically it has three primary functions:
  1. To keep potential pathogens that exist in your body in check;
  2. Fight against the attack of other harmful pathogens from outside the body that somehow invade that closed system;
  3. It also prepares itself against future invasions.
Point number three is the basis for vaccine technology. Basically a vaccine is a nonlethal dose of some dangerous virus that’s introduced into the physical system, to allow the body to build up a resistance against that specific threat.

That’s in fact, exactly how the influenza and small pox vaccines operate.

But it’s our immune system that does the actual work – it’s the immune system that God created in us that enables our body to stay healthy against those viral and bacterial invaders.

But what happens if the human immune system is compromised? Once the immune system is compromised – it’s very difficult for the body to successfully fight and defend against one of these unfriendly, ever-present organisms we mentioned before and the result tends to be fatal.

For the point of this illustration let’s consider the HIV pathogen, which stands for Human Immuno-deficiency Virus -- meaning a virus that causes the immune system to become weak.

Viruses, including HIV, cannot replicate on their own – this is an important point for the purpose of this discussion. To survive, HIV must invade a healthy cell in your body. Specifically, HIV likes to invade CD4 cells -- special "bug-fighting" cells that help the body's immune system protect against germs and viruses that can make you sick.

What HIV does is that it uses different enzymes – which are complex proteins that are responsible for a variety of cell functions – to “unlock” and enter the healthy CD4 cell, invading its command-and-control center which is called the nucleus.

Once that healthy command center is breached the HIV takes control, inserting its own destructive instructions into the cellular operation so that the reprogrammed CD4 cell will make new HIV copies instead of protective CD4 figthers. The infected CD4 cell is now an HIV factory, pumping out new viral material that will spread and invade other healthy immune cells. What happens is that the immune cells are no longer able to tell the rest of the body how to fight and defend against the other pathogens in the body. The only thing an HIV-infected immune cell is able to do is produce HIV - and then tell other CD4 cells to do the same.

What happens is, the body doesn’t die from the HIV – the body dies because the HIV blocks the immune system from doing its previous job of fighting and defending against microscopic attacks. Because the body isn’t instructed how to fight one of those other common germs or bacteria - those ever-present bugs are able to spread, multiply and kill the body.

Ultimately, the healthy immune cells, which are supposed to protect the body from sickness, disease and death, have been hi-jacked. They are now preoccupied with replicating unproductive viral material that seeks only to multiply – becoming passive weapons that allow the true death to occur.

This example of the immune system; common microscopic threats in the body that can kill but are kept in check by that immune system; as well as the insidious nature of HIV will help us better understand the spiritual battle we face everyday.

James chapter 1, verses 13-15:
Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted from God; for God is incapable of being tempted by what is evil and He Himself tempts no one….But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his or her own evil desires, lust and passions. Then the evil desire, when it is conceived gives birth to sin and sin, when it is fully matured brings forth death.”

The potential for the deadly sin that James wrote about in this passage is always present in the metaphorical “body” of a believer, in much the same way that the deadly common germs and bacteria are ever present in our physical body.
  • Physically speaking, those microorganisms can kill, but our immune system delivers us.
  • Spiritually speaking, that potential for sin could ultimately kill us as well; however, believing in Jesus is the spiritual immune system that delivers us.
Sin mirrors a killer spiritual virus that’s kept in check through faith. But if we allow that sin the opportunity, the spiritual immune system of the believer can be compromised. Such a compromise then allows the sin principle, which was dormant in their lives, to be resurrected.

We need to be watchful and vigilante recognizing that apart from Christ, “…there is no good thing in me…” because even though Jesus is alive and resurrected in the hearts of true believers - He is not the only thing that can be resurrected into our lives.

If we allow it, sin can be resurrected - leading to our death.

How Sin Acts Like a Virus


  1. Wow! That is SO SO good. I believe it is an excellent comparison and thought pattern. Very thought-provoking for sure. Very powerful. Thanks for the article.

  2. @Laura, I really appreciate that - thanks so much!