Staph Infections and the Ways of Sin

We are currently in a Lenten sermon serious focusing on personal piety.  Sunday’s sermon was The Extreme Measures of Repentance.  We looked at Matthew 5:27-30 to discuss the seriousness of sin and the call of our Lord to take vengeful and extreme measures in our life to fight it.  Little did we know that there was a perfect illustration of my sermon among us…on my face, to be more precise.

On Thursday I had a small sore bump inside my nose, and not surprisingly I did exactly what you aren’t supposed to do—messed with it.  I picked at it, squeezed it, pocked it, and of course this only made it worse.

By Friday it had grown really painful.  I began to hide it from my wife.  After all, if she knew how much pain I was in, she would want me to get it checked out, which is the last thing I needed to deal with.  Then I tried to be my own healer.  I got out the trusty ol’ iPhone, googled my symptoms, and within seconds had my own diagnosis and treatment plan.  Unfortunately my diagnosis was wrong (surprise, surprise) and my treatment plan only compounded the problem (I can’t believe sticking a flaming hot needle into my nose didn’t work).

Saturday I woke up with more pain and now some swelling.  It was obvious to everyone I had a problem, but I went into the denial stage.  My wife made me go into a walk-in clinic, but I downplayed my symptoms, got a prescription for a fairly generic antibiotic, and told myself and everyone else I was fine.  Part of me knew I needed more thorough care, but I just didn’t listen to that part.  I was in denial.

Sunday morning I realized I had a problem.  I was up all night from the pain and swelling, I had chills, was running a fever, and I knew I probably needed to be admitted.  But it was Sunday morning.  What was I going to do, just not show up and preach?  To me that wasn’t an option, and somehow I got through both services.

Now the obvious thing to do would be to immediately head over to the ER after church, but there was one small problem with that line of thinking—KY tipped off in the Elite Eight that night.  So instead I reasoned that a hearty lunch and good nap was all I needed.  Halftime of the game, I’m literally in tears from the pain, Abby is on the phone with my doctor who has the added authority of being an elder at our church, and he all-out demanded I go to the ER.  Begrudgingly, I gave in.

I could tell by the ER doctor’s reaction that this was far more serious than I thought. When I asked him about scars, he told me he’s not worried about scars, he’s worried about brain damage and death.  I finally realized the gravity of my situation.

What began as a small sore bump on Thursday morning, by Sunday evening had escalated into this…


Thankfully it wasn’t too late.  They have been pumping me full of antibiotics for five days now, my fever has broken, the pain is gone, and the swelling has lessened.  I’m in the hands of experts now, and they are confident I’m going to fully recover.

Now I know all you American hypochondriacs will be tempted to respond to this by freaking out over every little pimple on you or your child’s skin.  That’s not why I’m sharing my story.  Instead I want us to see my Thursday-Sunday as a microcosm of something far more serious, the progression of sin in our lives.

Like me on Thursday, it begins by messing with something that seems so small and harmless.

All the while, it grows.

Like me on Friday, we begin to hide it from others while trying to manage it and keep it under control ourselves.

All the while, it grows.

Like me on Saturday, it becomes clear that there is a problem, but we don’t want to deal with.  So we go through the motions of repentance to appease concerns, but mostly we are just in denial.

All the while, it grows.

Like me on Sunday, our sin finally catches up to us, the painful consequences are almost too much to bear, those closest to us are pleading for us to get help, very soon our lives will be in utter ruins, but still we hesitate.  Even if we know we need help, we still hesitate, fearing to neglect the many cares and concerns of our life that seem more significant.

All the while, it grows…

At church on Sunday we heard our Lord Jesus tell us to gouge out our eye and cut off our hand in the name of repentance.  Of course it’s hyperbole, but clearly He thinks severity is the only fitting disposition in this fight.  Why so severe?  I think Jesus understands the disease.  He knows that the sinful nature is an insidious infection relentlessly pursuing the ruin of its host.  If we are not likewise vigilant and fervent in confession and repentance, it will eventually own and destroy us.

Without repentance, a flirtatious text message will become a full-blown affair that destroys a family; a slanderous sentence will become a divisive controversy that destroys a church; a bored experiment will become a raging addiction that destroys a life.

Heed the warning of this illustration.  Stop this moment before it’s too late.  Confess, repent, turn to the expert, and be healed.

Rev. Robert Cunningham