A couple of years ago, my wife and I went to see the disturbingly interesting film Contagion, which has been described as a “medical thriller disaster” movie. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the film is about the rapid spread of a virus that results in a pandemic, until a team of researchers are finally able to produce a vaccine.
One of my friends who did his graduate work in infectious diseases said the film did a good job with the science, except the discovery of the vaccine was unrealistically fast. That’s pretty scary and enough to turn any normal person into a germaphobe.
Maybe that movie wasn’t the best choice for a date night, after all.
The Contagion of Sin
As scary as infectious diseases are, there’s a more deadly virus that you and I already have – the sin virus. As the 16th Century Reformer John Calvin wrote in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, “all of us, who have descended from impure seed, are born infected with the contagion of sin.”[i]
The disease is hereditary, of course, passed down to us from our earthly father, Adam. In the words of the Apostle Paul, “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12, ESV). To put it simply, we aren’t sinners because we sin, we sin because we’re sinners – fallen from our created perfection in our earthly father, Adam. To quote Calvin again, “not only has punishment fallen upon us from Adam, but a contagion imparted by him resides in us, which justly deserves punishment.”[ii]
The symptoms of this disease are apparent to all. Just read check your morning news feed. Politicians are caught lying to their constituents and cheating on their spouses. Yet another Hollywood star has had an affair and is getting a divorce. Violence and war tear apart third-world countries. The streets of our major cities are haunted by the dark specters of crime: drugs, rape, robbery, murder and assault.
But evil isn’t just out there, disturbing our already troubled world. It’s in here, in my heart, my soul. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the famous 20th century Russian write and activist, was right: “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” That’s what Jesus repeatedly taught, as he relentlessly probed the deepest motives of the human heart. Just try reading the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1) and see if you don’t get nailed.
Sin also infects the entire human personality. It is pervasive. To quote Calvin once more, “corruption subsists not in one part only…none of the soul remains pure or untouched by that mortal disease.”[iii] This means that sin touches us in mind, heart, and will. Our minds are darkened by sin (Ephesians 4:18), leaving us with an innate propensity towards self-deception and denial. But our hearts and wills are also infected, as our slavery to disordered passions and fundamentally self-centered pleasures continually show (Titus 3:3).