We got infected by the virus – again. I’m speaking of the church I serve.

It wasn’t COVID-19 this time. Instead, it was a virus that infected our website and disrupted our activities. The virus had been operating inside our website server for some time.

The people of nefarious intent who inserted the self-replicating code could have just as easily announced their ability with not-so-nice public messages displayed to the world. But they chose not to. I am thankful for that.

The intent of the virus was apparently more subtle. It was simply using the resources of our computer to hold and redistribute files upon demand. If the content of the files is ignored for a moment, the whole thing seems relatively harmless.

But what happened is that the virus, unable to keep up with the demand, kept replicating and replicating until it consumed all the available resources. The result was that it crashed our server.

In doing so, the issue was discovered and the virus essentially caused its own demise.

This experience was a reminder of what can also happen when we are not careful with our faith life and practices. Ignoring some practices that help draw us closer and connected to God, and instead using that time and energy to pursue other activities is a familiar choice.

Often, we will think there is no harm in just a brief pause of worshiping, praying, serving, giving or witnessing. We can even rationalize that we are still engaged in more spiritual activities, acts of piety, and mercy than, well, our neighbor, for example. And doing just a few things we know are not so life-giving, but feel good, is OK, right? After all, it is just a few.

The challenge comes when a few become a few more, and more, and more. If we are not careful, all our energy, time, focus and resources are soon used to pursue short-lived, not life-giving pleasures.

Such attractions come in many names and many forms. No doubt you are already thinking of a few that always seem able to get your attention. Temptations are all around and can quickly lead to dire consequences.

Those of us who call ourselves Christ-followers regularly pray together out loud, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” It is a public admission that we make choices all the time and need help to both choose wisely and to be rescued when we choose poorly.

Our computer system has been hardened, but it will still need to withstand future virus hacks. The same is true for you and me. Now is the time to stay connected to God and one another – before the next challenge. I pray we do.

Pete Berntson is the pastor of Church of the Palms United Methodist Church in Okatie.