Less than 200 years ago, few people suspected that we live in a world saturated with microorganisms. A handful of scientists, led by Louis Pasteur in the 1860’s had begun to discern the connection between tiny creatures and certain human diseases. But no one could have imagined that the average human body is home to hordes of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and assorted other entities that are invisible to the human eye.
How much of “you” is you? The current scientific guess is that your body is comprised of about 30 trillion human cells. You walk around with about 30 to 50 billion bacterial cells. So half of you, from a cellular perspective is not human. Most of your body’s cells, of course are immensely larger than your accompanying microbes. So you can at least be comforted that most of you is you.
Something like 40,000 different species of microorganisms are happy to use your body as a mailing address. The average bacterium lives only 20 minutes. That’s less time than it takes to watch a single episode of Family Feud on TV. Bacterium self-replicate 72 times a day. The vast majority of these hitchhikers are harmless.
Then there are the viruses, which have been much in the news in the past 18 months. They are vastly smaller than the bacteria and considerably more mysterious. There are a lot of them. Dr. Peter Medawar, the Noble Prize winning biologist, described a virus as “a piece of bad news wrapped up in a protein.”
COVID—19 is one reason why anti-microbial soaps flew off the shelves so quickly in 2020. Several brands offer this reassuring promise: “Kills 99.9% of germs.” But even if 0.1% of microorganisms remain alive, that’s a lot of germs.
Long before people began to obsess about ridding their lives of microorganisms, millions of people felt anguish about the cleanliness of their souls. In a broken world, how can we wash away-for want of a better term-the spiritual cooties of our lives? What we ourselves cannot accomplish, no matter how hard we try, God offers as a gift. The word translated “filthy” is soim, the strongest word in the Hebrew language to express something really dirty.
In our present condition, how can we ever stand before a holy God? He will have to do the cleansing. He will have to supply clean clothes and a clean heart.
And He is able to do so.
Jesus said to his disciples, “You are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you” (John 15:3)
That’s His promise to us too. The best news in the middle of a pandemic is that we can all experience the single cleansing that we most need.
Ron Naylor, Chaplain