Grace For The Journey
In AD 251, a plague struck the Roman Empire. We now believe it was measles, but then it was a devastating, mysterious illness that seemingly struck at random and ravaged the population. No one knew why or how the disease spread, so fear was wide-spread. It was recorded that five thousand people were dying every day just in the city of Rome.
In the modern age, disease is not so mysterious. But it’s incredible how much the human spirit remains the same. Much like thousands of years ago, the response to the threat of a pandemic is fear that leads to panic. Costco, Sam’s, and Wal Mart routine now ran out of water and toilet paper in a matter of minutes after stocking. We cannot turn on the news without hearing of the coronavirus. I am saddened to find that Christians are among those who are falling prey to the rising panic.
But in AD 251, Christians were the one segment of the population who fared much better than any other. The average Roman, believing that the plague was the judgment of the gods, would, as Dionysius recorded, “[push] the sufferer away, and [flee] from their dearest…hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease.” Thucydides reports that many “were afraid to visit one another…they died with no one to look after them; indeed there were many houses in which all the inhabitants perished through lack of any attention.”
Christians responded differently. Trusting in God’s promises of eternal life, they turned to care for the sickest. The ironic result is that the mortality rate of Christians was significantly lower because their care for one another gave a chance for the measles sufferer to recuperate, whereas those who isolated would inevitably perish from neglect even if they survived the ravages of the disease. Because they did not fear death, the Christians lived.
Are Christians responding any differently to the news of coronavirus than the average person? If Sam’s or Costco or Wal Mart is any indication, then the Christian fears death as much as anybody else does nowadays.
Where is our peace?
Where is our selflessness?
Have we no assurance
In the face of the unknown?
I am not advocating we abandon common sense. Obviously, everyone needs to do what everyone that is being recommended by health authorities to halt the spread of disease. But . . .
I am asking you to give yourself a faith check.
If you call yourself a follower of Jesus
And COVID-19 strikes fear in your heart,
Ask yourself why?
What does that say about your perspective
On life and its purpose?
What does that say about where
You place your hope and assurance?
For the early Christians, Jesus loomed large in their vision.
- They trusted that Jesus embraced others in love, even as they suffered.
- They loved others and embraced them in love, even as they suffered.
- They trusted that Jesus is King and thus no twist and turn of history was a surprise to him.
- They trusted that death did not have the last word because Jesus had defeated it, and that their destiny was with him eternally.
If Jesus, in all His
Beauty, wisdom, and grace,
Does not capture our hearts
Like He did theirs,
Then our hearts will
Be captured by fear.
The annals of history show, time and again, that the way of Jesus, of self-giving and sacrifice, is not a pie-in-the-sky philosophy that has no bearing in life.
It’s actually the best,
Most practical way to live.
Society functions best
When we consider the needs
Of others above our own;
It unravels when we seek first our needs.
We only need to look at
The example of Christians to see this.
I pray that the coronavirus advances no further, but should it continue its advance, will we Christians differentiate ourselves from the rest of the world in our response?
- Will we be the voice of peace in the midst of panic?
- Will we be the ones who serve one another and share resources, or will we horde and isolate?
- Will we have hope when others despair?
Our response will not only
Be a matter of the soul,
It may very well be
What makes a difference
In our communities.
And as we walk through this time of uncertainty together, please remember that we can be certain of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, and show that love to others as we live out what it means to be “for our neighbors.” So please take this opportunity to call and check in on your neighbors, or those you know who are elderly or live alone. Offer to bring food to those who are sick and can’t go out. Be a comfort to them in the midst of fear. Meet people where they’re at. Be different and be faithful. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”