3-Simple-Rules-Week-1In January 2006, scientists in Australia were investigating a disease that was taking the lives of many of native Tasmanian devils. Now, if you’re like me, you may think of Looney Tunes when you hear this name, but these are actually animals about the size of a small dog and they live in Tasmania, Australia.

What they found was this disease was actually a rare form of cancer and they called it Devil Facial Tumor Disease, or DFTD. This would form tumors on the animals faces and eventually take their life. They found out the abnormalities in the chromosomes of the cancer cells were the same in every tumor. That means this disease began in the mouth of a single sick animal.

The ferocious little animal facilitated the spread of DFTD by biting its neighbors when squabbling for food, which is a natural behavior of the Tasmanian devil. When scrounging for food, they would fight over meals, biting each other. Bits of the tumor would break off and stick in the wounds of the other animal.

Over the course of several years, infected animals continued to inflict deadly wounds with their mouths. Consequently, DFTD spread at an alarming rate, ultimately wiping out over 40 percent of the Tasmanian devil population.

A similar fate threatens churches in their members persist in the devilish behavior of wounding their neighbors with their mouths. James 3:8 warns us about our tongues; “but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” When we spout hateful words, discriminating words, or even words that don’t build up but tear down, we are doing harm.

God calls us to live a life of not causing harm to others. You see, we are called to live like Christ and he lived a life of not harming others. So how do we do it? We do this by treating others with respect and striving to guard all of our actions, even with those we disagree with; maybe especially with those we disagree with.

When we agree that we will not harm those we disagree with, then open conversation begin to happen. Relationships are formed and strengthened. But this takes effort. It’s not easy. Maybe it’s because it costs so much. We need to change our attitudes about how we talk about each other and how we view those around us. When we begin guard our tongues, our minds, and our actions, we start to see the other person. We truly begin to see them, for who they are, a child of God. And when this happens, we start to see all of the areas where we share common ground. We are united in Christ. We are called to the same mission of making disciples. We may not agree of how that happens or all other areas of our theology, but we can find many other areas of commonality.

We need to be intentional about prioritizing our relationship in Jesus Christ over our individual thoughts of practical theology. This requires a trust and faith in God’s plan for the whole world’s salvation. Can we trust that plan? Can we love each other and vow to not harm others, whether it’s in word or deed? I hope so.

Once again, I don’t believe that any of us goes out of our way to be mean, cruel, or harmful to anyone else, but it happens every day. We see it all around us, even in our own lives. We reflect back on the day that has just passed, and we see so many times that we caused harm, either to ourselves or others around us. Too often it happens to the ones we love the most. How does this happen?

I have to be honest with you. For me, this happens when I get run down. When I’m tired, exhausted, stressed out, or too busy, I find myself in danger of harming others. Common sense goes out the window as our internal filters either get clogged up or lose their charge. The only way around this is to make sure that I am taking enough time to recharge my filter. So, how’s your filter? Does it need recharging?

You need time to recharge your filters, we all do. We do this by taking our 15 minutes to be alone with God. We need to be proactive about this, otherwise we become reactive, and many times, that brings results that we don’t like. In order to do no harm, we need to be on guard for all those things we say and do. It is going to take effort and it’s probably not going to be easy. But, what about the results? How could your world change if you were intentional about not doing any harm and by avoiding evil of every kind?

The first simple rule; ‘Do no harm.’ Simple, yes. Easy, no.