The current COVID-19 Corona Virus pandemic has temporarily—and probably in some ways, permanently—changed the way we live. Most of the world is “sheltering in” with “social distancing” and home schooling and working from home—if at all. Church services are live streamed or recorded and watched from the comforts of home. When this virus has run its course what will the new “normal” look like? Will we no longer shake hands or hug? That’s the recommendation of the Center For Disease Control. What will life be like? The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center Towers in NYC on 9-11-01 definitely made some permanent changes to how we live, and this current “virus attack” will undoubtedly do the same.
When a person has cold or flu-like symptoms severe enough to check with a doctor, the question, of course is whether it is a bacterial or viral infection. Both are caused by microbes that are spread by coughing, sneezing, physical contact and through contaminated surfaces. Throughout history, millions of people have died of diseases such as bubonic plague (“Black Death”) caused by a bacteria and small pox, caused by a virus. In recent times, viral infections have been responsible for several major pandemics such as the 1918-1919 “Spanish Flu” epidemic that killed 20-40 million people, and the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic that has also killed millions, and now the corona virus epidemic that has resulted in thousands of deaths and a basic “lock down” of the world.
Bacterial and viral infections can cause similar symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, fever, inflammation, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue and cramping—all of which are ways the immune system God designed tries to rid the body of the infectious organisms. But, bacterial and viral infections are dissimilar in a number of ways, mostly due to the organisms structural difference and the way they respond to medications. Bacteria are complex, single-celled creatures which can reproduce on their own and can survive in different environments, including extreme heat and cold and, of course, in the human body. Most bacteria are harmless and some actually help by digesting food, destroying disease-causing microbes, fighting cancer cells and providing essential nutrients. Fewer than 1% of bacteria cause disease in humans. these are called “pathogenic bacteria.” Some typical bacterial infections include: strep throat, urinary tract infection, food poisoning, gonorrhea, tuberculosis, bacterial meningitis, Lyme disease, and tetanus.
Viruses are another type of tiny micro organisms, even smaller than bacteria, and come in a variety of shapes and features. They are parasitic meaning they require living cells or tissues in which to grow. They can invade the cells of your body, using the components of your cells to grow and multiply. Some viruses kill host cells as part of their life cycle. Some common viral infections include influenza, common cold, chicken pox, measles, viral meningitis, warts, viral hepatitis and West Nile Virus. The common cold is caused by a number of different viruses—rhinoviruses the most common culprit. As with other virus infections, there is not much you can do to treat a cold except wait it out, get rest, drink plenty fluids and use medications to help relieve symptoms.
Sometimes a secondary bacteria infection may develop during or following a cold, such as sinus infection, ear infection or pneumonia. Your doctor may take a sample of blood, mucus, urine, stool, etc. to culture to determine whether you have a viral or bacterial infection to see which—if any—antibiotic may be helpful to treat your condition. The antibiotic will stop the bacteria from growing and dividing, but will not be effective against viral infections. There are no specific treatments for viral infections. Treatments focus on relieving symptoms while your body clears the infection.
There is another virus, much deadlier even than the “Spanish Flu” or the COVID-19 Corona Virus, and that is the “Sin Virus.” When Adam and Eve chose to listen to Satan rather than to God and ate of the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil, sin entered the human race and everyone born since, except Jesus Christ, has been infected with this deadly virus. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Ro. 5:12). Each of us is born with the sinful, Adamic nature and is under the sentence of death. We sin (violate God’s character and commands) because it is our nature to do so. “For all have sinned and fall short of the image of God” (Ro. 5:23) and “The wages of (that sin) is death…” (Ro. 6:23).
Just as with other viral infections, which can only be treated to relieve some of the symptoms, the sin virus can only be “treated”—by man—to relieve some of the symptoms. People try to squelch their old nature and cover up their tendencies to sin. Adam and Eve did that as well by sewing together fig-leave garments to cover up their nakedness, guilt and shame. But there is no human cure for the sin virus. The only cure is what God provided, and which we just celebrated this weekend as we remembered Jesus’ suffering and death to provide the “antidote” for the penalty of sin, and His resurrection to demonstrate that the penalty was paid. All we need to do is admit our need and accept what He did on our behalf. “He (God the Father) made Him (God the Son) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21). “He (Jesus Christ) was delivered up because of our transgressions (caused by the sin virus), and was raised because of our justification (Ro. 4:25).
If you have only been treating the symptoms of your sin virus, acknowledge to God that there is no way you can work out your own salvation and trust in what He did for you. “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Tit. 3:5,6).
(More about the cure for the “Sin Virus” in next week’s “Wisdom of the Week”)