A while back I was reading “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”, a non-fiction book about a particular moment in the history of medical ethics, scientific discovery, and race. I ran across this sentence and for whatever reason it stuck in the back of my mind.
“Viruses reproduce by injecting bits of their genetic material into a living cell, essentially reprogramming the cell so it reproduces the virus instead of itself.” ~ The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
A picture of Satan trying to do exactly that came to mind, and the more I thought on it, a virus seemed to be a fairly apt analogy to sin’s effect on us. But once I started researching it a little more, I found that the analogy of sin as a virus was way closer than I originally thought. So this study explores some of those shared characteristics.
There are two things that probably need stated before we dig in here: I am not a scientist, and this analogy is not perfect. All analogies start to fall apart when you dig *too* deeply regardless, but since I’m not a scientist that may be especially true here.
The other thing that feels like it must be stated is that, unlike actual viruses which attack us through no fault of our own, we are complicit when it comes to sin. It is our hearts that are “desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9; Prov. 14:12). So though Satan certainly attacks us and helps us along, we should not read this analogy as one in which we play a passive victim role.
Regardless, I think this is interesting and valuable food for thought.
The analogy of sin as a virus
“…through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men” (Rom. 5:12)
It’s important to understand a few things about viruses that start to give our analogy to Satan and sin greater depth.
Viruses come in all shapes and sizes, from the common cold to HIV. The viruses themselves are all invisible, but with some it’s easy to see and diagnose the symptoms, and with others the host is a silent carrier with no outward symptoms.
Similarly, sins and their consequences take many different forms. Some are overt and public (murder, theft), but more often they are not readily apparent to us or the people around us. Many are subtle…a bit of anger, some work gossip to pass the time, too much time and attention spent on material things. But when left alone, they continue to multiply…like the “little leaven that leavens the whole lump” (I Cor. 5:6).