River blindness is one of tropical Africa's most heinous diseases. Medically labeled onchocerciasis, it afflicts millions of victims a year.
A monstrous disease, it is made more devastating due to the fact that blind victims in rural African communities cannot work, and because they cannot work they starve. If a family's provider is blinded, the entire family starves as well.The World Health Organization, which wiped smallpox from the face of the earth, declared war on river blindness a number of years ago. But, unfortunately, it still rampages.
A victim is unaware he has contracted the disease until it is too late. Biting flies in Africa's wetlands transmit the disease. Larvae migrate from the bites to various body tissues, causing severe pain. When the eyes are involved, blindness results.
As serious as such physical blindness is, there is another blindness that is more far-reaching and more devastating. No statistics exist for spiritual blindness, yet it undoubtedly is much more prevalent than physical blindness.
The problems of physical blindness are limited to this earthly sphere, to this mortal probation. The ramifications of spiritual blindness are eternal.
The physically blind can still see the way to eternal life. The spiritually blind cannot. Yet, which blindness gets more attention?
We need to take precautions to protect our spiritual vision as much as we do to preserve our eyesight.
Paul, in writing to the saints at Corinth, declared, "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." (2 Cor. 4:4.)
If we allow our minds to be blinded by the world, or to close against the light of the gospel of Christ, we, in essence, become spiritually blind. Those who will not see are in as great jeopardy as those who cannot see.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the mainstay against spiritual blindness. Peter spoke of many elements of the gospel: faith, righteousness, grace, peace, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity. (2 Pet. 1:1-7.)
Then, in the next two verses, he affirmed: "For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins." (2 Pet. 1:8-9.)
We can protect ourselves against spiritual blindness by being involved in spiritual matters. And faith has a major role. Paul told the Hebrews: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Heb. 11:1.)
Even when we are unable to see with our spiritual eyes, faith keeps us from being spiritually blind. We sometimes cannot see for ourselves the intent and will of the Lord, but faith enables us to obey Him. And through obedience, we gain blessings.
Just as victims of river blindness are unaware they are being attacked by life-threatening elements at the moment larvae invade their bodies, we also may be unaware when destructive elements enter our lives. We need to brush away sin in all its forms and sizes. We must prevent it from invading our lives. If it does, it can grow and destroy us.
Let us keep our spiritual vision clear and say, as did the psalmist, ". . . mine eyes are ever toward the Lord." (Psalm 25:15.)