Virus Warnings

April 13, 1999
by Robin Ross

1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way to escape, so that you can stand up under it.
Hebrews 4:15 – For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.

During more than three years on the Internet, I have received innumerable e-mail virus warnings about not opening letters with various subjects, like "Join the Crew", "Good Times", "Penpal Greetings" or "It takes guts to say Jesus", because, they said, opening them would erase my hard drive. E-mail is only text, and text cannot delete files. Viruses need a program to be run in order to execute their wiles. An executable program attached to an e-mail can do damage if you actually run it, and so can a Microsoft Word document with malicious macros, like the Melissa virus. In most cases, however, the real e-mail virus is the warning letter than can convince anyone who receives it that the threat is real, so that they will replicate the virus warning letter by sending it to everyone they know.

The other day, for the first time, I actually received a virus file attached to an e-mail from a good friend. The virus was one that I had been warned about, called "HAPPY99.EXE". One's first impulse on seeing an attachment is to click on it to open it. But I resisted the temptation, and instead hunted through old mail until I found the particulars about that virus. It displays celebrative fireworks while it corrupts a control file so that it can send itself out to every person that one sends an e-mail to. There's a website at securityresponse.symantec.com/avcenter/venc/data/fix.happy99.worm.html that tells how to get rid of it, and I sent the information to my friend. I deleted the file without opening it and my computer was not infected, but my friend has just phoned up to ask for advice on how to get rid of it. It's not easy!

It suddenly struck me how similar my experience was to a temptation to sin. We can be warned about the dangers of lying, pride, sexual immorality, and so on, but if we ignore the warnings, or think they are groundless, we will suffer the consequences. I was tempted, but resisted it, and escaped. Being tempted is not the same as sinning; Jesus was tempted but never sinned. And once we have fallen to the temptation, we have to live with the results. Fortunately, "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9). If my friend had read the virus warnings, she might have escaped. The warnings about the sins to avoid are reliably contained in the Bible, and the more familiar we are with its instructions, the more likely we are to escape the snares of sin.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord God, for the wonderful way in which your Word gives ample instruction on how to live a productive life. Help us to hide your Word in our hearts so that we may not sin against you. And when we do fall, grant us the assurance of your forgiveness through Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

About the author:

Robin Ross <rross@telus.net>
Mission, British Columbia, Canada

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