It’s Not Your Cancer

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It was a startling article that appeared in many newspapers, and online websites this past week about a man who passed away from cancer, but his death was unique in the fact that the cancerous tumors in his body, when biopsied, did not contain his DNA, but instead bore the DNA of a tapeworm that had taken up residency in his body. The foreign, uninvited parasite that made its home in the physical frame of the man was harboring a disease of its own, that transferred to the man and caused cancerous cells to become multiplied and attached inside of him.

This case raises many questions, and will likely launch many scientific studies, theories, hypothesis, and investigations. Pork may drop from people’s menus for awhile, and parasite cleanses will likely begin to sell like hotcakes. Many fears will lead to many drastic decisions–some beneficial, some not. And it got me thinking….

I live in a small town. Many people have lived in this town generationally. Great-grandparents are here, and so are some of their great-grandchildren. Living in small communities around the same groups of people fosters some wonderful community, but it also does another thing. It gives an ample “host body” for certain parasites. Let me explain.

It was something I first heard about in my first year of Bible School, and it was spoken about as a warning: “Don’t pick up another person’s offense.” Here is the scenario: Someone we are close to has been offended or hurt by someone else in our circle of community, and they are walking wounded. Our desire to assuage the pain of our friend/relative causes us to empathize with the person, and begin to feel what they feel. As time passes on, if our friend/relative has not reconciled the issue or pain with the offending person, they likely begin to let a seed of bitterness begin to grow in their heart. The wound begins to multiply, to grow, and even to continue bleeding even more toxic than its original state. Again we are faced with the decision to internalize their pain, and pick up their offense as our own. We begin our own personal crusade on our friend’s behalf, and we begin to despise the person/persons who hurt them. We join in the conversations that tear them apart. We begin to find ourselves finding as many opportunities as possible to paint that person in the worst light possible so as to discourage others from putting any faith into the offender, and we feel so noble in our cause. We are defending our friend after all.

What we don’t see is the parasite taking up residence in our hearts. The poisons of bitterness and jadedness that were present in our friend have now taken up residence in our hearts and minds and now we suffer from the same disease.

I don’t know how many times I have seen this and experienced it over my short lifetime. Not just offenses, but I’ve seen people take up another’s doubts, and live them as if they belong to themselves. There are entire families who won’t speak to other families because of something they “heard”, or something they refused to resolve. People who will never darken the door of a church because of what happened to their mom as a child who attended church and had her feeling hurt by someone irresponsible or careless. People all around us are on the verge of dying from someone else’s disease.

Here is what happens to you when you pick up another’s offense: You begin to carry the parasite. Even the person who was initially offended has the opportunity to forgive and be set free from the parasite of bitterness, and sometimes they choose that right choice (I pray they do). But you, you can keep carrying on with a chip on your shoulder that you put there for the rest of your life if you choose not to deal with it. You deliberately swallowed the tape worm, and now you are being poisoned slowly.


Consider for a moment how many offenses you are hanging on to. How many are directly related to you, and how many are the misplaced empathies of another? What about your doubts? How may of those that you carry are actually yours? How many things do you believe without ever investigating their validity? How many cancers are you dying from?

The Bible tells us that the only parasite cleanse for our spirits is forgiveness. We have to let the prisoner go free. We have to release the wound to God and ask Him to heal us and to do the right thing by the offender. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” is part of the prayer Jesus himself taught us in Matthew 6:12.

How are offenses washed away? Through the Blood of Jesus.

Because of the death of Jesus, as the penalty and payment for our many offenses against God and one another, we have access to a powerful, transcendent reality of a heart made clean and renewed by asking God to forgive us, and trusting in Jesus to wipe our sins away “as far as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12)

There are many things worth dying for. Someone else’s cancer is not.

A Borrowed Life

Surfing the internet for information yields some very interesting discoveries.  I find it more and more difficult to find trustworthy information.  Everyone has an opinion, and now, thanks to social media, your opinion can be known by thousands upon thousands of people in just a few seconds.  Opinions are a dime a dozen, facts are rare.  And have you noticed how angry everyone is? Outside of articles written about actual atrocities, crimes, and evil in the world, are millions of quotes, comments, and blogs written by people, about things they have never really investigated for themselves, but became stirred in their anger, doubt, or indifference.  Conversations with people tend to move that direction too–from the things they have studied and know, to the angry opinion about what they have never really looked into.

They are shouting from rooftops, and writing articles.  They break into every conversation with their opinions, but if they are pressed as to their anger, you will find it is second, third, or fourth-hand offenses, doubts or information they are borrowing as their own.  The topics range from politics, religion, local churches, schools, animal shelters, restaurants, medicine, etc….  “You see, I once heard this guy who told me of a story heard about this person who was a real jerk…and that’s why I won’t step foot in that place.”

I find it rare to encounter someone who is angry, doubt-filled, or indifferent about a particular subject or person who has first-hand reasons to be.  People borrow offenses, borrow doubts, borrow answers, and borrow trouble more than they can keep up with.  It becomes the reason people won’t read books, won’t ask questions themselves, won’t investigate truth, and won’t live fully. It creates clan wars, tribal feuds, church splits, and mud-slinging arguments. And when you live a borrowed life, the only fuel that can keep you going is anger.

Anger is the new caffeine.  But to what end does this fuel drive you?

I want to challenge you to live.  Living means learning, growing, investigating, educating, feeling, being moved with compassion, working, trying, forgiving, resting, being.  Life isn’t only living in the intense feelings of distrust, bitterness, judgment, arrogance, and opinion, thought that may make you feel the most “alive” at the moment.  Living involves living a first-hand life and dealing with your anger and frustration.

Anger and frustration are alarm systems put in place to let you know you need to move one direction or another. You either need to confront the obstacle or issue or you need to move from it.  You may need to investigate the source of the “smoke”, and put the fire out yourself, or you need to change your own battery which is now worn out, cynical, and all other ways grumpy and hard to live with.

No matter what, you are responsible for your life and the causes you live for and ultimately die for.  Don’t waste your life on someone else’s anger or doubt.  Don’t live a borrowed life.  Find your passions and then make a difference.  Investigate your questions. Let your life add to the beauty of living.  Be the neighbor you want to live next to, and the student you would love to teach.  Be the woman or man that is respected because of the way you treat others, not because of the fear you invoke.  Take the risk to live.

When you walk away from the borrowed life you discover that people are valuable and opinions are noteworthy. You realize that there is real evil to confront, and sometimes it’s inside of you. You also find that you know a lot less than you thought, and that you are in need of a Savior. If you doubt that–investigate it for yourself!2004-01-04 13.49.42