A few weeks ago, I watched on PBS.org a series called “The Emperor of All Maladies.” It is a documentary version of a book by the same name. I had read it several years ago and found it very informative. According to the author, Siddhartha Mukherjee, cancer is the emperor of all maladies. The book traces the history of cancer from as far back as evidence for it can be found and documents man’s often heart-breaking battle to annihilate it or at least save himself from it.
Cancer is normal cells gone lawless. So, no surprise, cancer is dreadful. It is dreadful because it aggressively multiplies and invades the body. It is insidious and tenacious. It is dreaded because it is a Trojan horse, already hiding within us. It is dreadful because it begins covertly so that it gains a foothold or even a death grip before we are aware of its presence. It is dreadful because it is indomitable. Although we have made significant progress, after over a hundred years of increasingly intense efforts, we are not even close to conquering it. One reason is that it mutates. So, for example, there are some drugs that appear to eradicate a particular type in a person, but then the same cancer often returns a few months later in a mutated state that is resistant to that drug. It is dreadful because it causes suffering and loss. The emperor of all maladies drags most of its victims inexorably toward death.
The Real Emperor of All Maladies
There is a malady far more dreadful than cancer–sin. Sin is really the emperor of all maladies because it is that which sent all diseases, of which cancer is only one, to invade humanity in the first place. Because “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), when Adam sinned in the garden death entered the world. How will death be accomplished? Mostly by diseases and violence. Sin is the original cause of sickness, diseases, and death. “All have sinned” and all will suffer (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).
Like cancer, “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). It is unruly, insidious, aggressive, tenacious, and deadly. Our sinful moral choices provoke personal and relational problems that develop, intensify, and overtake us. They often start covertly in the sense that we aren’t seeing the problem accurately (from God’s perspective), so neither do we think to take proper action.
- Peace in the household is a good thing? The person who is determined to have peace in the household may withdraw from conflict, manipulate others or, of all things, frequently fight for peace.
- People who do not deal with conflicts biblically develop habits of hurtful communication that escalates conflict and of perpetual tension, habits that result in separation and loneliness.
- Self-pity can grow bitterness, a victim mentality, and an attitude of entitlement.
- Perfectionism can grow into obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, workaholism, or underachievement.
- Fear practiced produces more fears. As intensity increases, it can lead to panic attacks, neglect of responsibilities, and life-dominating phobias.
These are only a few examples. Left unchecked, sin inexorably drags us to death–death of happiness, of relationships, of our bodies, and finally eternal death separated from God.
Unlike with cancer, there is a sure and permanent cure for sin. “The wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). “Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18). Those who repent are forgiven and free from the penalty of sin (Acts 3:19). They will one day be free from the presence of sin in eternal life with Christ. Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit enables obedience against the power of sin.
Repent Before Stage Four
Cancer provides a rich metaphor of sin. Where I want to take it today is simply to encourage you to take action now. One weapon against cancer that doctors promote is early detection. If cancer is discovered early, eradication is often possible and with far less discomfort than if it allowed to grow to stage four.
The same principle is true of sin habits and relational conflict. When you detect a problem, whether that be within your own heart or in your relationships, don’t keep on as you are and hope it will all go away. The habits we continue become entrenched and the messes we make of our lives and relationships can grow overwhelmingly painful and complicated. Don’t go there. Determine the biblical solution and take “biblical chemo” before your problem grows.
Furthermore, far worse than consequences upon ourselves and our loved ones is the offense against God. He is the one against whom every sin is committed. Even one sin demands justice. Even one sin, just one “little” bite of fruit, is infinitely damnable because it violates the infinite holiness of God, of He who loved us and gave His Son that those who repent might have those sins forgiven and live eternally with Him. If we love God, why do we wait to take action?
What action do I mean?
- Be sure that you are saved from sin and its penalty. Being a “good” person won’t save you. In fact, being “good” is another sin-cancer, blinding one to the fact that all our good works are a filthy rags to God (Is. 64:6). Instead, by faith, confess your sins and trust in Christ’s payment for your sins. Repent from your ways to follow Him by His grace alone.
- Then for your specific problem in living, start with the Bible. Find God’s solutions to anger, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, conflicts, suffering, and whatever personal and relational problems you are having. Don’t know your Bible? Use a concordance to search key words. Read, study in context, believe, and do what it says.
- Ask your spouse for help. Young person, seek counsel from your parent. Ask for help in finding out what the Bible says about resolving the problem.
- Seek counsel from your church teacher or leader (your immediate spiritual authority). If that is not possible or effective, ask your pastor. Find someone who will counsel you from the Bible and help you to put off your desires and put on the desire to glorify God, put off your thoughts ways and put on what it says to think and do.
Although on earth none will ever be free from the presence of sin, those who repent to follow Christ will be cured of both sin and all diseases when they see Him (1 John 3:2). Meanwhile, led by the Spirit you can overcome the power of sin. God promises that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). Godly living is possible. It comes easier if you detect your problems early and take “biblical chemo” diligently.