We’ll address the obvious questions first: No – that’s not the kind of title you’d expect in a church publication, but YES – it is appropriate to the subject! And No – this isn’t about flu season! Rather, we will be talking about two other kinds of viruses that plague human existence.
The first and worst of all possible ‘viruses’ is the infection of the human soul that we call sin. That might sound odd, since many people think that sin is only a matter of what we do, whereas a virus is a disease we catch and eventually recover from. However, the kind of ‘virus’ we’re actually comparing sin to is that new scourge of modern life: the computer virus.
If you’ve ever had a computer that became infected, you know how sneaky and destructive viruses can be. But did you ever think about this from the perspective of the people who designed the computer and wrote the software that runs on it? For them it is even more infuriating – they’ve invested huge effort to create something that is powerful and ‘beautiful’ in its functionality and responsiveness, only to see this vision corrupted by malicious instructions implanted by a hostile agent. And that pretty much sums up God’s disappointment with HIS creation!
We are told in Genesis 1:27 that we were created in the ‘image of God.’ Now this certainly doesn’t mean that we looked like God, who is a spirit after all! Rather, we might say that God duplicated in us His own ‘operating system.’ That is, we were coded to function autonomously in perfect harmony with His will and purposes. In fact, the crowning achievement of God’s entire creation was the design of the creatures that He set over it, whose intellect, imagination, and passion to create things that are pleasing and useful mirrored God Himself. You might say that God perfected the concept of ‘Artificial Intelligence’ when He invented humans who functioned creatively and interactively according to His divine purposes, but without constant supervision or detailed instructions. No wonder that He pronounced His creation very good! (Genesis 1:31)
That perfection was how things stood before mankind became infected with the virus of sin, but it’s now a very different story! While we still retain much of the sophistication of God’s design, the ‘operating system’ has now been maliciously corrupted so that rather than serving God’s purposes, we now unwittingly serve those of the malicious ‘hacker’ we know as Satan – who in a stroke of evil genius got mankind to download the ‘malware’ idea that happiness and fulfillment can be achieved without God – doing things our own way! And it’s no good arguing that there isn’t a problem: though we’re ‘executing our code’ quite efficiently, it’s the WRONG programming! Left unchecked, we destroy not only ourselves but all of God’s good creation. Sin truly is a damning virus!
Now, though this metaphor of sin as a computer virus isn’t perfect, there surely are some very real similarities! One of them is that once the code is corrupted, any and all copies are too. That’s why there is no such thing as an ‘innocent person’ – we are each born pre-programmed with the ‘malware’ that we call ‘original sin.’ Another similarity is that computer viruses aren’t cured by the computer itself: the pernicious nature of a virus is that as far as the host system is concerned it’s all just ‘normal code’ and it takes the strenuous efforts of a perceptive outside agent to locate and eradicate it. Faced with a severe infection, the sensible thing to do is to ‘purge the system’ and start afresh. But though God seems to have contemplated this (i.e., the Great Flood of Genesis 6-9) He chose instead the more difficult, more loving, and vastly more costly solution. And that’s where our metaphor ceases to be relevant because there is no such thing as inexpensive ‘antivirus’ software for the sinful human condition. For reasons that we can’t fully fathom, ridding His creatures of the virus of sin required the death of God’s own sinless Son. That awful price was paid by Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross and its success was marked by His resurrection. With the power of the virus broken, God’s Holy Spirit is now free to work the restoration of His original code.
“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)