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Paul and the H1N1 Virus

September 15, 2009

20The law was added so that then trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

Romans 5:20-6:2

Our pastor at church spoke on these verses a few weeks ago and I was struck by his words as he spelled it out for us. He said, “Where there is sin, there is grace. Where there is much sin, there is much grace. As sin increases, grace increases as well to cover the sin.” I immediately started thinking about it.

In that case, shouldn’t we sin more so that we’ll recieve more of God’s wonderful grace? That’s the rhetorical question Paul poses here as well, and one that has been debated through the ages. “Absolutely not!” cries Paul, “It’s literally untinkable.” As I pondered these verses, a new image came to mind.

Korea these days is incredibly concerned with the H1N1 virus and prevention of the spread of swine flu.

They are so concerned in fact, that they take preventative measures that often go above and beyond what most would consider logical. In the airport, all incoming passengers are screened for fevers. People returning from trips abroad are asked to stay home for seven days “just in case” they picked up the virus and don’t know it yet. My school has added hand sanitizers and soaps all over the school and tests teachers temperatures every day before work. If any teacher or student shows any sign of fever, they are asked to stay away from school for seven days to get over it and avoid spread of the flu. Additionally, many famous festivals that have become staple events in certain cities in Korea have been canceled for fear of spreading H1N1.

For as much as Korea is concerned with H1N1, do we ourselves have any room in our spiritual lives to not be equally concerned with humanity’s own original virus: sin?

Let’s read those verses again with a slightly different perspective:

20Medicine was invented so that disease wouldn’t increase. But where disease increased, vaccines increased all the more, 21so that, just as viruses once reigned in our mortal bodies, so also immunity and white blood cells might now reign through increasingly good health practices.

1What shall we say then? Shall we go on trying to get sick so that our antibodies might increase? Of course not! We strive for preventative medicine to protect our bodies, how can we continue to offer our bodies to disease?

Think about the irony of those words. But every time you have a disease, there’s a risk that disease might kill you. How then, can we intentionally get sick?

Koreans, with all their preventative measures against H1N1 would say you’d be crazy to go and intentionally try to catch the virus to develop immunity. Can we as Christians also say it would be equally as crazy to go out and sin just to recieve grace? The apostle Paul certainly thinks so.

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