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Good Germs

by Tim O'Hearn

Step away from the dishwasher. The news story said that families are healthier when they wash dishes by hand. The reason was that automatic dishwashers with their extreme temperatures get the dishes too clean. When they are washed by hand, dishes retain some of the bacteria and germs. When children are exposed to those few germs they build up a resistance, and so they are better able to fight off infections and even allergies. Some parents have long argued against those who would never let the baby play on the floor other than on a carefully cleaned blanket. Exposure to dirt on the floor, and later in life to mud and dirt outside, helps build up immunities to local pathogens. This idea even has biblical applications.

A few germs may actually be healthy for the physical body, because we are so made that we build up an immunity. For the same reason, sin is not good for our spirits. The difference is that we can become immune to diseases; after all, that is the theory behind vaccinations. However, when exposed to sin we do not become immune to it, but rather immune to the consciousness of it. Paul says the theory of spiritual vaccination does not work.

Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:1-4)

He tells the Corinthians (1 Cor 15:33) that evil companionships have a corrupting rather than curing influence. Our righteousness may, at times, have a beneficial effect on others; more often they have a negative effect on us. He warns Timothy (1 Tim 4:1-2) that some believers will be corrupted to the point that their conscience is “seared with a hot iron” (cauterized). The danger is that sin becomes a gangrene that results in the surgical removal of conscience, or at least sealing it off from contact with the body.

Some have said that the first few chapters of the Proverbs are a handbook about avoiding gangs. While this may be true in one sense, Solomon is warning of the dangers of sin and sinners in general. “If sinners entice thee, consent thou not.” Do not put in your lot with sinners and prostitutes because the end of that path is death. Solomon knew; he had walked that path and nearly lost his kingdom by doing so. His son, to whom these chapters may have been specifically written, would subsequently lose most of his kingdom and his spiritual life by believing proximity to sin would vaccinate him against further harm. Paul elaborated on this to the Romans. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)

The good news is that, spiritually, we do not have to step away from the dishwasher. We have the means to get the water hot enough to remove all the dirt and germs. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) The blood of Jesus is effective to cleanse all sin. Nothing is left. The dishes are truly clean. Of course, a dishwasher does no good if the dishes are not placed in it. Correspondingly, one cannot receive the cleansing without being put into Christ’s blood. “By which figure immersion indeed now saves us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the seeking unto God of a good conscience) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet 3:21) Peter and Paul both point to immersion in water as the point at which the dishwasher cleans people of sin (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16)

While it may be healthier for the physical body to be exposed to a certain amount of germs, the spiritual part of us needs the full cleansing. It may be best to wash dishes by hand, but it is essential to wash the spirit in the dishwasher of the blood of Jesus.