“Cocaine Toothache Drops,” “Cigares de Joy Cure Asthma,” Dr. Scott’s Electric Hair Brush—“hope for the bald.”
In days of old, medicine was more often harm than cure. Imagine cocaine used to cure toothaches—even in children, or smoking cigars as a cure for asthma! Imagine using a hairbrush with a small electric current in the handle to help add hair to your head! For the more seriously ill, there were laxative remedies, blood-letting, or leeches, all to help eliminate whatever was causing illness from within.
Today we can laugh at these old advertisements for cure, knowing that they were nothing more than quackery sought by the desperate in a time when even doctors knew little that was better. And all of these remedies were sold by the local druggist, so the doctor was often not consulted at all! But the attempt to find a quick cure is still a temptation today—pain is a great motivator.
What about the pain of sin? What “remedies” do we try to help eliminate the pain it brings, or better yet, to eliminate a sin from our lives for good? Penance is one remedy often used to try to alleviate the effects of sin. These acts of self-abasement and devotion are designed to show our sorrow over our sin, and hopefully bring relief from guilt and a desire to turn from the offense.
Confession to a religious leader is another form of attempting to deal with our sins, allowing us some relief from no longer keeping something hidden inside.
Religious works can be done from a heart with pure motives, or from a guilty heart. We often find ourselves feeling better about sinful deeds and the harm they have caused when we turn in another direction and do something good, kind, or loving.
Guilt is perhaps the most common form of trying to remedy sin. We often believe that carrying a heavy burden of guilt somehow makes up for the sins we commit.
Is there another prescription for victory over the sin that besets us all? The Bible describes Jesus as many things, and among those He is called the Great Physician. Who knows better how to deal with the disease of sin than He? Yet just as with an earthly doctor, we must decide whether we will follow His plan in scripture:
Jesus answered them, “It is the sick who need a doctor, not those in good health. My purpose is to invite sinners to turn from their sins, not to spend my time with those who think themselves already good enough.” Luke 5: 31-32
As with the patient desperate for a cure from what harms them, we must see sin as a source of harm and accept the invitation of Christ to come to Him. He gives us the prescription to follow as He gives us the grace to do so:
For the free gift of eternal salvation is now being offered to everyone; and along with this gift comes the realization that God wants us to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures and to live good, God-fearing lives day after day, Titus 2: 11-12
The temptation to look to the practices mentioned above, penance, works, or guilt, is always there. But with knowledge of God’s Word and trust in the Lord to help bring change from within, we can see true freedom be ours over the course of time:
So look upon your old sin nature as dead and unresponsive to sin, and instead be alive to God, alert to him, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Do not let sin control your puny body any longer; do not give in to its sinful desires. Romans 6:11-12
Though we will never attain perfection while on earth, we can grow in sanctification by living God’s way. Will you consider your own response to sin and allow Christ to bring true change in your heart? Will you evaluate the things you may be doing that bring no long term changes?
Living Bible (TLB), biblegateway.com