Cancer and the Body of Christ

Dear Reader,

This is somewhat of a follow-up to my previous post on the body of Christ. In that post, I talked about the role and importance of even the smaller “organs” in the body that is the church. This post is more on the negative side of that same image.

There has been a lot of cancer in my life lately. My dad died of it two years ago. A friend’s grandfather just died of cancer. A cousin had a scare which fortunately turned out not to be cancer. And a dear old neighbor is fading fast from cancer. It is amazing how a few aberrant cells can multiply and spread so quickly and be so devastating.

And then it makes me think, if this is what an out of control physical disease can do to the body. What does spiritual sickness do to the church, the body of Christ? In so many of the cases I know, the disease was caught very late. The cancer had already spread to multiple locations and the person consumed by it had a matter of months to live. It was past the point where medicine could do anything to stop it. But if it is caught earlier, there is so much more hope. There is a chance to check it where it is, to excise it from the body and move forward with life.

What is the cancer of the body of Christ? It is sin. Now, we all sin. God’s people are not exempt from this. But there are persistent, serious sin patterns that can destroy not just the individual (the organ in our analogy) but can affect and ultimately destroy the whole body. These things will pop up from time to time. We can try to prevent them. As with physical cancers, there are high risk behaviors. A person who smokes is more likely to get cancer. A church that does not consistently preach the gospel is more likely to have spiritual problems arise. But just as a person with a healthy lifestyle overall can still get cancer, so a healthy, gospel-preaching church can still see its share of blatant, infectious sins.

When the disease is there, the next line of defense is early diagnosis and treatment. Just as a cancer caught early on is much more treatable, so a sin pattern addressed early on is more likely to be dealt with effectively. This is why it is important for the body to be aware of what is going on. The leaders of the church need to know what their flock is up to and what spiritual struggles they are having. The members also need to be involved in each others lives. And where there is a problem, we need to confront one another (lovingly) to deal with it. If the individuals can not address the problem, church discipline needs to be exercised.

If this fails to happen, then the danger is that the disease will spread. Its effect will be seen not just in the initial people involved but the whole body will begin to be tainted by it.



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