There were tense and agonizing moments in Riverside, California Tuesday night, according to the Associated Press (May 25, 2006). Inside a darkened electrical substation, a rat chewed through a high voltage cable, causing power to go out for 9,500 residents. Making matters especially critical was that the outage occurred just as contestants on television’s “American Idol” were about to perform.
Residents of Riverside will likely recover from this unfortunate incident. But rats and other rodents have caused real harm in times past. Bubonic plague, also known as “Black Death,” killed perhaps a third of Europe during the Middle Ages. Rats were likely the cause of that epidemic. There are good reasons why we typically despise rats.
The incident in California recalls a story of a pilot. Flying alone in a small airplane, he heard a sound from beneath the instrument panel. He recognized the sound — a rat was chewing on wires. Knowing that a broken lead could lead to serious failures in the aircraft, the pilot quickly brainstormed his options. He pulled back hard on the stick, climbing rapidly to higher-than-normal altitudes. Soon the chewing sounds ceased as the rat could not survive the changes in cabin pressure at the higher elevation.
Sin might be compared to rats. It spoils the good and necessary things of life. It leaves death in its path. And if we listen closely, we just might be able to detect the faint sounds of sin chewing through the vital wires of our souls. What action can we take to combat these virulent forces?
Paul urged Christians to climb to higher levels in life to counteract the deadly effects of sin. “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16, NKJV). Walking in the Spirit means that we aim higher than those who are worldly. The principle is made clearer in Colossians 3:1,2, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”
Those who have been “raised with Christ” are those who were once “buried with him in baptism” (Colossians 2:12). They did not remain in that simulated state of death, just as Jesus did not remain in the tomb. “… you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12). Obviously Paul was referring to all Christians when he urged that we set our minds on things above.
Sometimes, though, we crave things of the earth. Paul called those things “idols.” In Colossians 3:5, he taught that we are to “put to death” certain old habits of our past, including “covetousness, which is idolatry.” To continue flying at lower elevations shows that we’ve not yet broken from our old idols.
Rats and mice should never be tolerated. Left unchecked, they do great damage. Sin, which can be more subtle than rodents, will cause eternal damage.
Can Sin Be Tolerated?