If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. –1 John 5:16-17
Alas! I mourn for Penny’s laptop for it died last night on the operating table. The surgeon, Dr. Me, recognized his fatal errors only too late and didn’t even bother closing the patient. The various body parts reside now in a Wal-Mart bag in my office.
For quite some time, that computer had been less than wonderful. In fact, it was less than wonderful when we bought it, a couple of years back. Some six months ago, the CD drive ceased to function, which meant that installing most new software became nearly impossible. Surely, I surmised, the illness was a simple one, perhaps a loose connection. I determined to open up the patient to have a look. How far wrong could that go?
Opening up a laptop, I discovered, is far more challenging than opening up a desktop computer. I’ve been the sort to pop the hood and play with the innards of computers for years. At one point, I did it so often that I only left one screw in to hold the cover on. In all those years, I only did one really stupid thing.
Now, I have opened up exactly one laptop and done exactly one stupid thing. You might be tempted to laugh at me or to believe that such folly deserves whatever consequences it yielded. If you’re a technical type, you could scoff at my clumsy handling of the affair. You could.
Or you could have sympathy. You could pray for me, although I’d be quite shocked at a miraculous re-assembly of the computer.
John’s words in today’s verses seem to me to simply elaborate on the entire theme of love that he’s been working on for several chapters. If we truly love people, we do not laugh or quietly celebrate their failures. We pray for them. We ask the best for them. If you’ve never tacitly been pleased at the fall of another, then this doesn’t really apply to you, but I believe that such feelings, fed by envy and pride, crop up often among us. They must have done the same thing in John’s day for him to mention the problem in this letter.
As I pass through my day, I see people involved in gambling, driving infractions, substance abuse, immodesty, and other sins. Do I wag my head and feel quietly superior to them? Do you? If you follow John’s admonition and pray for them first, I’m pretty sure that you’ll avoid those feelings of self-righteousness.