We have a picture of Elijah that is too painful to share. It’s him in his underwear, skin and bones, barely able to stand the morning I took him into Emergency. We had no idea what was wrong with him. Was it some form of cancer? Worms? Metabolic disorder? Why was he losing so much weight and deathly ill? It happened so fast we barely noticed the warning signs until it was almost too late. It turned out the culprit was his own body. He was dying from an auto immune disease that caused Type 1 Diabetes.
Before our son Elijah’s diagnoses of Type 1 diabetes, I had only a vague notion of what an autoimmune disease was. In Elijah’s case, his autoimmune disease meant that his body’s immune system flagged part of his pancreas as the enemy, and turned his own defense system on a healthy part of the body, destroying it for life. This mistake would have proved fatal if not for the discovery of insulin and his daily injections that replace what his own body destroyed.
As I was grieving the loss of Elijah’s beta cells, it struck me what a potent warning analogy an autoimmune disease is for the body of Christ. It is so easy to “flag” or mark other Christians as “the enemy”, and set the immune systems of gossip and condemnation upon that person.
With a sense of our holy mission to protect the body, we break fellowship or shun and encourage others to do the same. In so doing, we can unwittingly destroy a genuine and vital part of the body of Christ. We walk away congratulating ourselves on our “discernment,” and have no idea the fatal blow we may have dealt to Christ’s local body. Christ alone knows the function he had designed that person to perform in his body, the church, and how the body will suffer because it is missing that key component.
Don’t get me wrong: there is cancer and genuine disease that the body needs to be protected from. There is a place for warning against wolves and false teaching. But the immune system is explosive and powerful. We need to be so merciful and cautious in our attacks.