Stemming the Outbreak!
One of my new favourite board games is a co-operative game called Pandemic. In it you try to beat the clock and stop outbreaks of disease before they become pandemic! Infection is fun to play, but far from funny to deal with in real life. From time to time you hear tragedy in the news of people dying in the hospital after catching an infection that was totally unrelated! The following is information I copied from a government website:
“All hospitals have infection control procedures and policies, and staff take every precaution to avoid infections. However, the risk of infection can never be completely eliminated and some people have a higher risk of acquiring an infection than others.
Lung, wound, urinary tract and bloodstream infections can be picked up during a stay in hospital. These are called healthcare-associated infections or HAI. HAI usually occurs two to three days after admission to hospital.”
Nancy’s son Matt went into emergency on Saturday evening and was “isolated” in a private room because during his stay in December the unit had an ongoing outbreak of antibiotic resistant bacteria called VRE. Because he had been exposed to that potentially very easily spread infection, he had to be kept away from the other patients in the ED so that they would not be infected. The staff coming in to his room had to put on protective clothing—gowns and gloves so that they would not accidentally spread this infection to someone else. Even though he never had it, it was a protective measure they took.
This is the imagery that comes to mind when thinking about Hebrews 12:15 which says, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many”. As we’ve seen repeatedly through Hebrews, here there is probably a direct reference to an Old Testament text. Deut.29:18 states, “Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison”. Just like hospitals take measures to contain and eradicate outbreaks of infection, so the church is called to be alert to deal with potential “bitter roots”.
A “root of bitterness” definitely has the capability of “defiling” others. And it also has the capability of causing the person to become isolated from others, from the community. Just like a dangerous bacteria that has the potential to cause harm to many people, bitterness can grow from a small disappointment into a big resentment that brings with it destruction.
What are some measures that we can take to prevent bitter roots from growing up among us and causing trouble and leading to the defilement of many?
The NLT begins verse 15 with the wording: “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God.” We have to protect and watch out for one another in the family to make sure that when troubles come, resentment or bitterness isn’t allowed to flourish. So for those who are sick, we need to visit and pray with them so they don’t feel alone. When we have people who are struggling financially, we have to provide for them so they don’t become bitter and hardened about what they don’t have, but rather can feel joy over the grace of God shown them by their brothers and sisters in Christ. When we have quarrels, we have to have a way to lovingly restore relationships.
Are you experiencing a disappointment right now that could grow into resentment and lead you to sin? What are some ways you might process that past hurt in a way that heals rather than continues to hurt you? Do you need to talk it over with a trusted friend? Have you asked the Holy Spirit to comfort you and heal this hurt? Are you putting yourself into an “isolation unit” and not allowing others to get close to you, because of a root of bitterness and hurt?