It’s been a rainy summer, so to be honest, when the kids’ first week of school came, my thoughts were, “No Way!  Did summer ever arrive?” (Technically,  it’s summer for a few more weeks, but try telling my kids that.)  For us, the rain means more mowing than we expected… AND more mosquitoes!  I’m totally serious; I swatted a mosquito that flattened out as big as a quarter.  Now, they’re not ALL that big… but they’re all blood sucking, needly pests!  Cutter hasn’t cut it and I’ve needed to put more OFF… on.

My mind has been meditating on a passage of Scripture that I touched on almost a month ago.  It took the end of summer to bring the message home a little more precisely.

I’m itchy!  The mosquitoes got to me while I was picking cucumbers and zucchinis and digging potatoes down in the garden spot.  Oh, I forgot to mention… in doing some of that mowing I happened (unknowingly) upon a patch of a crawling, streaming plant.  The thinly-vined three-leaf kind.  You got it.  Poison ivy.

Thank God, I’m not that allergic, but I am itchy!

1 Corinthians 15:33 (KJV) says, “Be not deceived:  evil communications corrupt good manners.”

My summertime itch has given rise to a fuller, richer understanding of this short but direct challenge by Paul to the Corinthians.  The NIV is easier to read:  “Don’t be misled:  bad company corrupts good character.”

Bottom line on the poison ivy – it was the last section of a two-pronged completion of the ‘boro side of the church driveway.  I started from 99 and headed toward the church …ran out of trimmer line and gas … and then came from the dumpster toward the spot I had just finished. As I was taking my last few trimmer swipes, I looked down and realized, “Uh-OH!”  I just sprayed three-leaf ivy vine residue all over my legs, arms, hands and face.

I’m not complaining, just sayin, “I’m itchy!”  The level of discomfort is proportional to my (idiotic) exposure.

I could deny it and say I’m not at all affected by the numerous welts caused by those nasty mosquitoes (despite the generous application of  my favorite insect repellent.)  I could also pretend that the backs of my calves and forearms aren’t erupting with the tell-tale oozing, itching blisters of the “ivy poison” …as Gramma used to call it.  But in being “tough” and saying that “it doesn’t bother me,” I’m just plain lying.  I know I’ll recover, but I have taken a certain risk.  I AM AFFECTED!

Mosquitoes communicate by taking something away from you.  Poison ivy communicates by giving you something.  The one can steal your joy almost immediately.  For me, harvesting the things in my garden became like Braveheart on the battlefield–slapping and swatting with one hand while wielding a pitchfork/spade in another.   The other “communicator” seeps into the pores of your skin and inflames to the point of an open sore.  Neither is pleasant.  Some people are allergic… and some (in the case of mosquitoes “bites”) are even plagued with disease from whatever was “communicated!”

This is the message of the verse.  So often (especially young people… but not just young people), believers say, “Oh, that doesn’t bother me.  I’m OK with that.  I can handle it.”  Yet, they are playing with pesky, subtle, evil communicators.  They’re either going to get something they don’t want, or get something taken from them that they never intended to give.  The joy is stolen from the harvest and the comfort gives way to oozing irritation.  This is the connection between “evil communication” and “corruption”  in  1 Corinthians 15:33.

Thank goodness we don’t have malaria around here…. or bird flu… or Lyme through mosquito bites!

I would echo Paul’s challenge:  “Don’t be misled; Come back to your senses!” (NIV)  If you can avoid the evil communicators, do it!  Don’t get cozy with poison ivy and, for heaven’s sake,  when the mosquitoes want to be your evening companions, just pick up and leave!  The same is true in the spiritual realm; why put yourself in such an unpleasant position?