Combatting That Nasty Bug … Intemperance
It Appears to Me
I hadn’t worn a particular jacket since the winter, so when I put it on, I was surprised to feel something bulky in the pocket. In I reached, tentatively hoping for a forgotten treat; instead I found a packet of sore throat lozenges and a tissue. “Hmmm, I wonder how long a virus can survive in the pocket of a jacket,” I asked as I washed my hands. This time of year always makes me realize how vulnerable we are.
With another incendiary political season behind us (where everyone was accusing everyone else of lying), I began to realize just how contagious intemperance can be; and sadly, I developed a rather nasty case of it myself. At a party I began to criticize a political candidate, and before long, I was using language unbefitting a man of Christian profession. The next day, I contacted a few friends to apologize for my rant. I do not feel my critique was inappropriate, but the words and manner of my usage were intemperate, and I fear I may have infected a few people at that gathering.
I thought the nasty bug had run its course; I was feeling better and my judgements seemed prudent again. But then I saw a national politician on television gloating about a seeming success, and right then and there my temperature spiked as I coughed out a cloud of virulent intemperance. I guess it was just lying dormant all the time, nasty bug that it is. Thank goodness no one was around to contract it this time.
This virus is really causing problems. I don’t need the Centers for Disease Control to tell me that it may wreak havoc at Thanksgiving gatherings, especially because one of the symptoms is that people often feel completely healthy prior to an outbreak, but before long nearly everyone in the room is diseased. That word, diseased, seems a good one when speaking of intemperance: Disease, to be in a state of agitation that makes one uneasy, fearful or angry. Speaking for myself, there are times when faith waivers, and one of the first symptoms is intemperance.
In four small verses in Matthew chapter 8, we are told of Jesus’ healing of a leper. We’re told nothing of the man, but make no mistake; he was living a long, lonely death sentence. All Matthew really has to say is that the man approaches Jesus saying, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” The man was healed.
The world is so full of anger, distrust and hatred, most of which we cover over with appeals to authority, “Well, [the Pope, the president, the polls] agree with me that those people are [evil, dangerous, dirty, etc.].” Healthy critique and distinction can be good, but it seems to me that we would be far better off with reasoned, rational judgements that focus on the common good. The descent into intemperate language and behavior is deadly, and many may find themselves standing before the Great Physician on the last day, only then realizing how diseased we were (please, Lord, may it not be so).
If I had a deadly communicable disease, I believe I’d protect my family and friends. If necessary, I might choose to live alone, like the leper, until I was well; I would put away my selfish wants in order to keep others safe. Thank goodness, the cure for intemperance doesn’t require such sacrifice (although it may be better for me to avoid certain settings where intemperance may be cultivated). The Golden Rule is 100% successful in killing the virus of intemperance: Treating others with the respect we would wish for ourselves renders this bug harmless; it has nowhere to grow. Yes, developing such virtue is difficult, and all of us fail, especially in the nascent stages of treatment; but if we wish to be well, the cure is at hand. Out of love for our neighbor, all we need to do is ask, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”