Our most fatal allergy; our most deadly addiction
Watching the incident with Luis Suarez biting a member of the opposition team has led many to ask, “Why would anyone do such a thing?” It seems bizarre especially in the context of sport. But I think that the Bible gives us a true explanation of why we do seemingly irrational things. And we all do them. If you have never come away from some act or course of conduct and thought, “Why on earth did I do that?” then you have probably never looked long enough at your own actions.
Human beings are a mixture. We were made in the image of God and, although sin marred that, we still have that in us. It is what leads to beautiful acts and moments of creative genius and so on. But we are also fallen and sinful people. That is not a popular idea these days but it is one that makes sense of the crazy and downright evil acts that humans keep doing despite all advances in learning and science and culture.
I like to walk along the pathway that runs at the back of the cow meadow by the river front at Woodbridge. It is a lovely walk filled with the sights and sounds of nature. Yesterday, for example, I saw a warbler and a blackcap. And there are some truly beautiful sights as you walk along there to Kyson Point and then back, along the river wall, to Woodbridge.
But along with the pleasant and the beautiful comes the less beautiful. There are many brambles that are already growing strong. And spotting those reminded me that, beautiful as this planet is it is marred by what the Bible calls sin. When our first parents sinned God told them that the land, that was originally very fertile and easy to work, “will produce thorns and thistles for you…” (Genesis 3:18). But that first sin also caused death, spiritual and physical, to enter into our experience as humans. And the result is that all of us are born with a natural allergy. Sin, according to J. I. Packer “is an anti-God allergy found in every human soul, the taproot of all active disobedience…” In other words the things people usually associate with the word “sin” such as murder, theft, lying, greed, bitterness, jealousy, anger etc., are all the effects of sin which is, as the Oxford Group used to say, a kind of soul sickness. It makes itself known in each of us differently. Some of us are more prone to anger than others. Some express anger outwardly in fits of rage or even of violence. Others do so by turning it inward into resentment and bitterness. The brambles of our inner sin condition are always there.
The soul sickness or anti-God allergy means that we reject God’s goodness and seek our wellbeing and happiness in created things instead. We are, at root, selfish and self-centred people. If you are not convinced then ask yourself the question that Augustine asked; “Who taught me to lie?” The obvious answer is that no one did. We learned to lie when our self-interest clashed with the demands of others.
Because everyone is affected by this sin disorder we are often impacted by the wrong doing of others and we react, from our own soul sickness, in wrong ways. Thus felt hurts often become simmering resentments that poison all of our relationships.
And we then seek to feel better about ourselves in various different, God avoiding, ways. In some cases this involved copious amounts of alcohol that led to a mental and eventually physical reliance on it just to get by. But others seek to respond to a perceived lack of self-worth (perhaps springing from the sins of others that impacted us) by becoming successful. Each new business deal gave them a brief sense of worth but it, like the alcoholic’s spree, only lasted for a short while and there was the need for the next one. Or it may be that the person determines to prove they can be better parents than they were and so they place intolerable burdens on themselves and their children.
And we cannot deal with this inner heart problem by attempting to do good things. Anyone who has tried to rid their garden of brambles knows that you only have to leave the tiniest bit behind in the ground and it will soon be flourishing all over again. And it is the same with the anti-God allergy of our hearts. For a while we can alter our outward behaviour. But sooner or later our inner soul sickness will surface again. Supressed jealousy will out. Suppressed anger will come to the surface again.
And all of these things spring from our failure to acknowledge God as we ought to, from our anti-God allergy. And this allergy is also addictive. It drives us further and further away from God. We deny his authority, and then we deny his existence. And the things we now see as acceptable behaviour God says are not and so we prefer to avoid God altogether because we think we are having a better time without him.
I said in the title that this is a fatal allergy and it is. God has said that the punishment for sin is eternal spiritual death. How that will look like no one knows. The Bible calls it hell because it will be the lack of all the good things that come from God and which we take for granted now even as we reject him. It is, though, the result of our choice. If spend our lives rejecting God why should he then let us into his heaven when those lives come to an end? The ultimate end of our anti-God allergy is an awful future without God’s blessings.
But thanks be to God that there is a solution. We have an anti-God allergy and we cannot cure ourselves of it. But we can submit ourselves to the master physician of our souls, Jesus Christ, and let him heal us. We can stop looking to other things for the answer to our inner heart troubles and recognise the real diagnosis. We have an anti-God allergy that has become a fatal addiction. Then we can ask God to forgive us because he has provided, in the sinless Jesus Christ, a solution to our problem. Sin required that we die both physically and spiritually. But Jesus died for us, taking the punishment for our sins. And he gives us his Holy Spirit who begins the process of making us whole again. Our anti-God allergy is being replaced by a more powerful pro-God force within us.
This is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
 J. I. Packer, “The glory of God and the Reviving of Religion” in A God Entranced Vision of All Things (ed. John Piper and Justin Taylor; Wheaton Ill.: Crossway, 2004), 104.
 The Oxford Group was an evangelical non-denominational renewal movement in the first half of the 20th Century. The first 80-100 men who would later become Alcoholics Anonymous were cured of their alcoholism through the gospel they proclaimed.