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When the Cure Kills

Would you like to be happy? Take one of these!

A magazine ad for a pill promised to make me happier, but I couldn’t get past the two-page list of ominous side effects. Among the “serious” ones: increased risk of stroke; high fever, rigid muscles, shaking, confusion, or sweating; increased heart rate and blood pressure; unexpected increases in thirst, urination, or hunger; lightheadedness or faintness; impaired judgment or motor skills; and swallowing problems. Wow! That should make you forget all about your depression!

The warnings also include the not-so-serious, but more common, side effects: nausea, vomiting, constipation, headache, dizziness, restlessness, anxiety, and insomnia. Just reading the list is enough to induce coma!

Amazingly, the pharmaceutical company paid handsomely for an ad to tell me how sick its product can make me. Even though the cure sounds worse than the disease, somebody must be buying it!

Also amazing is the tendency of the church to do the same thing. People need a cure for guilt and sin. But sometimes, religious folks may make people worse. The well-intentioned Pharisees did that. Jesus said of them, “You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are” (Matthew 23:15).

How could the “cure” become worse than the disease? By elevating their traditions to make them the standard by which they judged. Consequently, Jesus said of them, “They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Matthew 15:9).

The Pharisees didn’t intend to make their religion worthless; they were just gradually enticed by a basic human tendency to think that their way was THE way. They fell into the trap of thinking that the “way we’ve always done it” was the right way.

Some 2000 years later, Christianity has become encrusted with tradition. Far too often, church is ritual and ceremony; pomp and performance. It’s stained glass, strange music, and steeples. It’s pews and piety, suits and self-righteousness. None of which are found in the New Testament and none of which are part of Christ’s cure.

Let’s return to Christ’s original Christianity. Let’s get back to the first followers and their documents. Let’s strip away the layers of tradition that have accumulated through the centuries. Jesus gives a genuine cure. Let’s take that – and that alone.

That kind of Christianity will even cure depression – without all those nasty negative side effects!


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