Do you know someone with cancer? Sure, we all do. About a year ago I made the observation to my small group that it feels like cancer is everywhere. I said something like “maybe I’m just getting older, but it seems like there’s more cancer now than ever before.” Their slightly amused faces confirmed the truth – certainly being older means that I will see more cancer.
Cancer is a devastating illness and I don’t intend to make light of it here. And by absolutely no means do I want to imply that cancer is the result of sin in a person’s lifestyle. I know far too many wonderful people with cancer for that to be true. But one of the ways I make sense of life is to find metaphors – ideas from the physical world around us that may represent something of the spiritual realm.
Certainly this is a scriptural thing to do, don’t you think? After all, Paul compared the Church to a human body – with Christ as the head, and the rest of us functioning in different parts of the whole. “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” 1 Corinthians 12:27.
If the Church can be metaphorically described as a body, then does it follow that there could be a cancer of the Church?
1.Cancer begins when healthy cells mutate. How interesting that cancer in the body comes from what was once a healthy cell. Spiritually healthy Christians, churches, and families can be deceived and change into something that is no longer healthy.
2.Cancer is when mutated cells divide/grow without control. In the Bible we see this described as yeast “beware the yeast of the Pharisees, which leavens the whole lump of dough.” It takes great spiritual diligence to avoid the snare of deception.
3.Cancer cells spread to other parts of the body. Imagine that a false prophet influences a certain generation, and from that generation come hundreds of pastors and teachers who bought into the false prophet’s misleading messages. You don’t really need to imagine it – just check out your local bookstore.
4.Cancer can choke out healthy cells and steal blood from organs. Deception drains resources and time from the Church. Its members then lose contact with the Holy Spirit and begin to depend on themselves (legalism) or walk away entirely (atheism).
Fortunately, Jesus is the Great Physician. He specializes in spiritual tumor removal (A), radiation (B) and chemotherapy (C).
(A) For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
(B) The Light shines in the darkness. And the darkness has not overpowered the Light. John 1:5
(C) Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25