Just when I feel that computers and I are finally friends, something happens that brings me back to  reality.  I was in the process of installing a legitimate program to our home personal computer, and I absentmindedly pushed a button inviting me to follow a shortcut.  It turned out to be a shortcut to chaos.  I had opened the door to one of those programs that takes over a lot of your computer’s  functions by replacing your familiar search engines with a usurper.  This alien installs a number of other unwanted operations, crowding your computer with new applications, games and a proliferation of ads.  This kind of sounds like the story Jesus told about how an ” unclean spirit” is cast out of a person, but then comes back with seven others worse than himself to take up residence and make the unfortunate person still more miserable (Matthew 12:43-45).

With the telephone assistance of my “technical adviser” Mike O’Neal-Petterson, as well as some helpful on-line blogs by people dealing with similar problems, Judy and I were able to restore the computer’s operation within a few hours.  But in the process I learned a great deal about malware, which is short for “malicious software.”  I found out that our invader was a relatively benign type of alien known as “adware,” designed mostly to sell products.  But I also learned the difference between “viruses” and “worms,” and I found out about such exotics as “ransomware,” “trojans” and “PUPS” (“Potentially Unwanted Programs”).  I want to stay far away from these bad actors.

So it is with sin.  Often it begins with a seemingly innocuous decision to push a certain button, to say an inappropriate word, to think a bitter thought.  But before we know it, we’ve unleashed a whole herd of demons that are beyond our control.  The disciple Peter thought he was being noble when he criticized Jesus for talking about his approaching death, but the Lord responded with the famously harsh rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:22-23a)  Jesus saw the malware that could be multiplied and magnified through Peter’s earthbound attitude:

“You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” (verse 23)

Lack of proper focus, inattention to Jesus’ high spiritual purpose put Peter in danger of turning into Satan.

Years later this same Peter, now older and wiser, warned the people under his spiritual care:

“Discipline yourselves, keep alert.  Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls  around, looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, steadfast in your faith.”  (1 Peter 5:8-9)

The words of Jesus, “Get behind me, Satan!” probably still rang in his ears as he warned them to be always vigilant.  They too needed to wake up to the fact that focusing on the “human” rather than the “divine,” even in small issues, had the potential to release malware that could “devour” them.

With my newly acquired computer expertise, I confidently click from site to site.  But I must remind myself that, for me, computer pride goeth before a computer fall.  Don’t push any risky buttons without calling Mike.

Will I also apply this lesson in the spiritual realm, where little decisions on my part can lead to dangerous malware consequences?  Will I regularly remind myself, Don’t push any risky buttons without calling Jesus?

— Pastor George Van Alstine