Microscopic pathogens, viral and bacterial, are the most dangerous animals on our planet. So small, and yet some of the most dangerous infections can kill 9 of 10 people they infect.
Yet in many other cases, such as typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, smallpox, polio, and a host of others, we actually have learned to harness the power of the infection and our own immune systems.
After some simple inoculations some of the most dangerous animals on the planet cannot hurt us. The vaccinations usually work without us ever knowing we were under attack!
Years ago, I met several young parents. They had small children who had never been vaccinated against tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, and other potentially fatal diseases.
The parents claimed there was no need, because those diseases weren’t a problem anymore, and besides we now had antibiotics and other medication that could take care of those problem diseases.
When I pointed out that there was still no cure for polio or tetanus, they smiled at me condescendingly. They had an irrational, blind faith in the power of medicine. I could only pray that none of them discover the danger they were putting their children in.
Medical science has made significant progress in healing and disease prevention. But for medical help to be most effective, we need to use that help responsibly. Just being around people who have been vaccinated does not give you immunity!
In the lesson from Jeremiah, the prophet writes on behalf of God:
Jeremiah 7: 3 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. 4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: "This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD." 5 For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, 7 then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever.
The people of Israel believed they were safe from harm simply because they were God’s chosen people, and lived where God’s temple had been built.
They had a false sense of security. Their behavior was seriously wrong, and un-Godly, yet they thought there would be no consequences, because they hung out near the temple!
They were like the young parents I met who thought because they lived near well people and good doctors they and their children were safe. But the people of Jeremiah’s day had not “inoculated” themselves with real faith, with real obedience, and with real devotion to God.
Responsible faith and blind faith are not the same. Responsible faith is a faith that is responsive to God’s call to truly amend our ways and our doings, to truly act justly one with another, and not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood ... or go after other gods to our own hurt.
God may I have faith, responsive and responsible faith. Amen.