FIRST-PERSON: Hazardous exposure
EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- A man entered a bank in Modesto, Calif., to make a deposit a couple of years ago. He handed the teller a large wad of money wrapped in a paper towel, and after he left the teller broke out in hives and had trouble breathing. Other bank employees developed fevers and respiratory problems.
Who came to the rescue? The Hazardous Materials Unit, wearing yellow suits and rubber boots. The hazmat team entered the bank looking like space travelers as they searched for the source of the contamination.
Every city and town has a hazmat team. Chemicals are volatile and dangerous, accidents waiting to happen. "Of the more than 40,000 chemicals in commercial use," said one authority, "most are subject to accidental spills or releases."(1)
That's not to mention the threat of deliberate biological or chemical attacks. As of this writing, the source of the Modesto incident is unknown. None of us knows when we'll need the men and women in yellow suits.
What about spiritual toxins that can seep unseen into the soul? What about the devastating results of untrue thinking and unwise behavior?
In the first chapter of Romans, the apostle Paul describes the collapse of a society as if explaining a chemical chain reaction. First, rejection of the teaching of creation (verses 18-20). Then a proliferation of false gods (verses 21-23). Then a rejection of moral absolutes and a collapse of sexual morality (verses 24-25), resulting in runaway sexual perversion (verses 26-27). The final state is a total moral meltdown (verses 28-32).
An essential element to Christian holiness is learning to spot and avoid moral contamination like a hazmat expert.
Some friends can be hazardous to your spiritual health. Perhaps you're finding it hard to resist the invitations coming your way. You want to feel included, but it comes at the cost of your conscience. It's important to avoid toxic friends now because, as time goes by, the temptation becomes worse.
Toxic friends can get you to do things you never thought you'd do. 1 Corinthians 15:33 warns that "evil company corrupts good habits." Wrong friends can contaminate our good habits like a pesticide. If you need to back out of a friendship, make a covenant with the Lord to do so, ask His help, then think through what to say.
Don't expect the conversation to go well. The Bible warns, "Your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you. But remember that they will have to face God" (1 Peter 4:4-5, NLT). That is all the more reason to make friends with those who can build you up, not tear you down.
We also need to guard against toxic exposures. With all our electronic options, we don't need friends to lead us into evil; we can do it very well ourselves. Pornography is only a click away. We no longer have to stand in line at a movie theater to view profanity-laden stories of sex, violence, nudity, gore and corruption.
My point here is a positive one. Since the evil around us is as clear as a chemical cloud, we can avoid it. The Bible says, "Through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided.... The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives" (Proverbs 16:6,17 NIV).
Remember those bank employees in Modesto? They were taken to the parking lot, rinsed off and decontaminated. The Lord Jesus can do the same for you. Hebrews 10:22 puts it perfectly when it talks about "having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water."
Ezekiel 36:25-27 is the Lord's message to you if you're battling spiritual contamination: "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." Take these words seriously. Claim them now as your own. Read them aloud and hear what the Lord longs to tell you.
Spiritual contamination matters to God and it should to us. The Lord Jesus is the greatest hazmat specialist in the world. He can cleanse you from hazardous friends and exposures. Let Him cleanse you with His blood and with the water of His Word. It's time to clean up your life.