In the fifth chapter of John, Jesus meets a man who has been sick with an infirmity for a long time, and He heals him of the disease. We read, “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 15:4; NKJV)
The man had suffered the afflictions of the body, but there was worse that could have afflicted him. The afflictions of the soul are more to be feared than any disease of the flesh. Jesus was surely concerned with the physical health of people, but the Bible clearly shows that He was far more worried about their spiritual condition. Jesus did not die on the cross to bring us healthcare. He died on the cross to bring us the forgiveness of our sins.
Unfortunately, there are many people worried about their health, who never worry about the state of their immortal soul. Sin, the Bible teaches us, is worse than any disease of the body, worse than any physical malady.
Consider the many people who worry ceaselessly about the effects of salt, sugar, fats, GMOs, pesticides and the like in their foods. They worry that these things will cause cancer, obesity, heart disease, or a myriad of other problems. They fear to ingest these things and go to great expense and trouble to avoid such in their diets. They urge their friends and relations to avoid these perceived dangers. Yet sin is worse than any of these things, and the damage sin does to your soul is far more dangerous than any chemical ingested into the body. How diligently do these same people strive to keep sin out of their life?
It seems like it should be obvious, yet this simple truth seems to elude some people: if you live long enough, your body is going to die of something. It is inevitable. There is nothing you can do to prevent it, and only so long you can prolong it. “It is appointed men once to die, and after this, the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)
This is why sin is worse.
With many physical problems, it is a little like the parable Amos tells concerning the certainty of God’s judgment: “It will be as though a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him! Or as though he went into the house, leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him!” (Amos 5:19; NKJV) We escape one physical malady only to meet another. Ultimately, something is going to get us.
But sin is actually avoidable and is the only spiritual affliction we need to be concerned about, for it brings the condemnation of God. If you find alleviation from the affliction of sin, there is no further spiritual malady to cause you harm. That is why, after healing the man of his infirmities, Jesus did not warn him about fatty foods, his diet, his hygiene, or anything similar. Jesus warned him that sin would bring far worse and that the solution was to cease from sin entirely. “Sin no more.”
So serious an affliction is sin, that Jesus warned it would be far better to remove actual parts of your body, making yourself lame or blind, then to enter into eternity with sin staining your soul. (cf. Matthew 18:8-9) Physical maladies are but for a season. Hell is forever.
Thankfully, in Christ, and through the power of His blood, there is forgiveness of sins available. (cf. Ephesians 1:7) Yet this possibility of forgiveness does not make sin less dangerous. “Shall we continue in sin?” the Bible asks. And then promptly supplies the answer: “Certainly not!” (cf. Romans 6:1-4) Indeed, even after turning to Christ we are warned about the dangers of the deceitfulness of sin, and the peril of falling away from the salvation Christ offers. (cf. Hebrews 3:12-15) Sin remains an ever-present danger, and one that is worse than all others we can face in this world.
So, the next time we are tempted to worry about this thing or that, some affliction of the body, or physical threat; let us bear in mind that no matter how dangerous such a thing seems to us, sin is worse. And the steps we might take to avoid a physical malady; we should strive ever harder to avoid that spiritual malady which carries with it always eternal consequences.
If you wish to learn more about how to find forgiveness from your sins, through faith in Christ, the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise if you have any questions, please share them with us through our website chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.