Problems with the Side Effects
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Gal. 5:22-23, NIV).
I have been borderline hypertensive most of my adult life. Until recently, I was able to control this by diet and exercise (although, the quest for the ultimate cheeseburger didn’t help this condition).
But recently, my doctor and I determined that we needed another tool. So, a couple of medications were prescribed, and low and behold, after a couple of days, my BP readings started to respond positively.
But at the same time, something else happened.
Just as rapidly as my BP began to drop into an acceptable range, I also developed a dry, hacking cough.
And while I have had hay fever most of my life, the remedies that I normally use to treat that ailment did not work on this cough. Then, when I read about the side effects of the BP medication the doctor had prescribed, sure enough, one of the “side effects” was in fact a dry, hacking cough.
No surprise really … we all have become familiar with side effects. Indeed, that concern has been one of the loudest arguments in the ongoing debate surrounding Covid-19 vaccines. Side effects are simply the unintended consequences that sometimes arise from a prescribed course of action. And, the side effects might either be positive or negative. Interestingly, we see these “side effects” everywhere, including in our faith!
For example, one side effect of Peter’s faith (in which he went from a fisherman to a fisher of men) was that he got to walk on water! Sure, he only took a few steps, but still … who else can make that claim aside from Jesus?
And while that experience was a cool side effect, there also was a negative one … that because of his faith, Peter also would face genuine persecution, imprisonment, and then ultimately, crucifixion. Not so cool side effects!
And these side effects still exist today. For example, one of the most touted side effects of the faith in the United States is that the “Protestant work ethic” is what caused our nation to lead the way during the Industrial Revolution and helped us to prevail over the fascist regimes during World War I and II.
So, are there any negative side effects of the American Protestant Christian culture? No doubt there are.
Many of what we could consider negative side effects either don’t come to the level of those faced by Peter or are not caused by our faith in Christ, but instead, through our “additions” or “alterations” to our common faith in Christ. Like with some generic meds, often it is the “additions” to the active ingredient that causes the side effects … not the active ingredient itself.
Still, despite any negatives, the active ingredient both in our medicines and in our faith is to give us life – and that life is certainly more abundant!
Lord, as I consider the cost of my faith versus the cost to You, how humbled I am. Thank you for your great gift of love and the promise of an ongoing relationship with You. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran
American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains