Recently, I learnt about cancer cells through my biology course. Here are some unique things about cancer cells:

  1. They do not follow the body’s genetic code
  2. They refuse to die, unlike normal regenerating cells
  3. They are unable to coordinate with normal cells
  4. They are strong-willed and uncontrollable
  5. They destroy instead of build up the human body

While studying how cancer cells worked, I thought about how we as Christians in the body of Christ can so easily become like cancer cells without realising it. This is where I must first clarify that I do not say any of this in condemnation of my fellow brothers and sisters, but rather am making observations of my own past behaviour.

So how might we become “cancerous” as Christians?

1. We are rebellious and unwilling to follow

Cancer cells are cells that do not follow the body’s genetic code. Instead, they have a mind on their own. Similarly, I had a rebellious attitude towards my pastors and leaders in church because I thought I was wiser, and frequently attempted to do things my own way.

Little did I realise how disastrous and fruitless this attitude was – though I was getting things done, God would have known that I was doing them in the spirit of rebellion (Proverbs 17:11).

2. We refuse to die to self

Unlike normal cells that naturally die to allow other cells to take their place in a process of regeneration and growth, cancer cells fight to get their way. Many times, whenever a conflict ensues, my immediate reaction is a refusal to die to myself – to give up all pride and self-righteousness. Instead, I would insist that I’m right.

I’ve even harboured resentment against others when they criticised me, and still frequently compare myself with others. I desired glory of my own and was envious if another brother enjoyed success. Because of this, many frictions have happened in the past that I regret to this day.

3. We are individualistic, unable to cooperate with others

Because of the rebellious nature mentioned in Point 1, I constantly acted on things according to my own understanding. I was doing many things by myself and not keeping my church leadership and community informed. I did not like being vulnerable to others and as a result, was closed off to them.

4. We are strong-willed and uncontrollable

The growth of cancer cells weakens normal cells and subsequently weakens the body. There were times when I negatively influenced others due to my pride and self-centred opinions. Perhaps it was partly due to my attitude that friends even left the church.

5. We destroy the Body instead of building it up

Because I was in the habit of flaunting my own knowledge instead of speaking words that edified and built up others, I neglected loving the Church. As a result, I believe my presence must have been self-inflating and unkind to the people around me.

External diseases do not affect the human body as severely as internal cancer cells. Therefore, I dare say that, at times, the cancerous Christian presents a greater threat to the body of Christ than the devil himself.

In His final prayer, Jesus repeatedly prayed for His disciples to be one, just as He and the Father are one (John 17:22). He wouldn’t have prayed for something that would happen naturally. He knew that disunity would be the chief reason why His Body (Matthew 26:26) and His Bride (Ephesians 5:27) – the Church – would fall apart.

He knew that it would be humanly impossible to “love one another”, that the world might know who were His disciples (John 13:35). 

And when we look further into Scripture, we see that the Church in Acts won souls because “all the believers were together and had everything in common” (Acts 2:44-47).

So if you’re zealous to see the Kingdom of God established on earth, it’s helpful to start seeing that the Lord’s first priority has always been for His Body to be healthy and functioning in unity. When the Church is healthy, everything else in God’s plan will flow.

How can we do this?

1. Submit to your leaders

There will be times when we disagree with our leaders. But unless it pertains to central doctrines of the faith, don’t simply shrug your leaders aside just because they’re teaching something contrary to the ideas you hold.

If we are to be united in heart and mind, we need to recognise that some of the opinions we hold onto may actually be wrong, or not the only right answer, and be willing to listen to other points of view.

“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)

Some may argue, “What if my leaders give ‘poor’ counsel”? It is true that leaders may not always make the best choices in our opinion; this is where we must recognise that God has placed these people over you, and that it is His will for us to have confidence and submit to them (Hebrews 13:17).

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1-2)

At the end of the day, all of us will be held accountable for our actions. Our leaders will need to account for their decisions. Our job as followers is to honour the God-appointed authority and maintain God’s appointed governance within His body.

2. Be humble and esteem others above yourself

In God’s eyes, we are all equal. Therefore, any competition that stems from pride within the church must be rooted out in order to preserve the spirit of unity.

If our culture’s kiasu-ism is still influencing you to compete, we are told to only “outdo one another in showing honour” (Romans 12:10). And that can only be done by exercising humility and servitude towards our brothers and sisters in Christ.

3. Be accountable to the Church

The beginning of Acts 5 describes an unpleasant example of a couple who was not accountable to their leaders and the Church. Peter’s judgment to them was this: “You have not lied just to human beings but to God” (Acts 5:4).

Sometimes we don’t want to be accountable to our community because we don’t want people to disagree with us. But when we do things without being transparent to the Church, we may be acting on our own accord and leaving God out of the picture without realising it. 

By being forthcoming with our leaders and peers in church, this gives them the opportunity to steer us in the right direction should we veer off course. Their different experiences and revelation can also help us to uncover any blind spots and highlight potentially bad decisions.

Proverbs 14:12 tells us, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death”. In hindsight, I was indeed trying to advance the Kingdom, but this was zeal without knowledge (Proverbs 19:2). I pray now that my faith works through love (Galatians 5:6) – not for myself but for the unity of the Body of Christ.

This article was first published on Jonathan’s blog and is republished with permission.

  1. Have you been a “cancerous” Christian?
  2. How were you “cancerous” in your attitude or behaviour?
  3. How can we guard against such pride, resentment or rebellion?
  4. Why is unity so important in the Church?