November 2014 – The Ribeiroia Ondatrae
In this month’s National Geographic magazine there is an article entitled “Real Zombies: The Strange Science of the Living Dead.” It’s an article about really strange parasites in the natural world and the things they do … it is fun reading. One of the strangest was the ribeiroia ondatrae. It is trying to take over the world I think. It’s a flatworm, a tiny thing, that reproduces inside of snails in ponds. From the snail host come large numbers of ribeiroia ondatrae larvae that dig themselves into the budding limbs of tadpoles. The result of this is that cysts are formed around those budding limbs causing all kinds of leg deformities – no legs, lots of legs, odd shaped legs … you name it. There is a reason we don’t see many six-legged frogs in the local pond – they just can’t move like the other frogs and so they provide a delicious treat for herons and other waterfowl. But it doesn’t end there. Inside the frog, which is now being digested inside a bird, that flatworm is reproducing again. And when the bird takes care of business in another pond, out comes the ribeiroia ondatrae. The cycle begins again.
Sin’s effect is really not too dissimilar to the somewhat grotesque workings of this flatworm. Man’s sin operates like a parasite. It creates deformities – we were, after all, made in the image of God – but look at mankind! Romans 1 gives us the picture: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” Sin has this kind of polluting effect on the image we bear … Paul comments in Ephesians that as Christians we were “dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” … we were the walking dead, like those frogs … destruction was near … being “children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
And then something happened. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ …” There is Christ on the cross, beaten, brutalized, taking on our deformity, our sin … and cleansing us with His blood, covering us with His righteousness, making us a part of His Body, which cannot be destroyed. We were rescued, saved, delivered from death and the wrath and curse of God. It was a marvelous act of grace that accomplished this.
What a wondrous thing to think about.