Whew—another week of social distancing! How are you doing? I pray that God will give you endurance to see you through this challenging time. May you continue to maintain a positive attitude, a generous spirit, and a grace-filled heart.
Personally, I find it helpful to look back in history to see how Christians have responded to situations that are similar to what we are currently experiencing. What can we learn from other Christians who have lived through pandemics and plagues?
Let’s briefly look at a two plagues that struck the Roman world in A.D. 165 and 250. These particular plagues had a high mortality rate and it is estimated that a quarter of the population died. Dionysius, the bishop of Alexandria near Rome, wrote this in his Easter message: “…out of the blue came this disease, a thing more terrifying than any terror, more frightful than any disaster.”
How did these early Christians respond to such a deadly outbreak?
Early Christians cared for the sick and dying. This might sound like common sense, but it wasn’t. In this time period, humanity did not yet understand how a disease could spread. There was no understanding of how to fight the disease other than to avoid people who were sick. Therefore, those who fell ill were largely abandoned.
Christians chose a different response. They believed that as Christ sacrificed for them, they must sacrifice for one another. So they nursed the sick back to health as best they could and they buried the dead when the sickness claimed a life.
The early Christian response was different from the rest of society. Dionysus recounts how the majority of society responded to the crisis: “At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treating unburied corpses as dirt.”
Christians chose to respond with sacrificial love instead of fear. Ironically, Christians ended up surviving these plagues at higher rates than the rest of their world. This is most likely because those who cared for the sick and survived ended up building up an immunity to the illness.
What can we learn from how early Christians responded to the plague?
We, too, can respond with sacrificial love instead of fear.
Fear can come in many forms. Fear can cause people to pretend that COVID-19 is not a big deal. I am unfortunately seeing a lot of conspiracy theories peddled on social media that attempt to minimize the severity of this disease. There are churches and colleges that continue to meet in-person because of misguided beliefs about the virus.
Conversely, fear can also cause us to become glued to our TVs, phones, and computers so that we will always know the latest. This response never gives the mind a rest and can cause undue anxiety.
I encourage you to follow the patterns of Christians in the second and third centuries.
Choose love and sacrifice.
It may feel like a sacrifice to practice social distancing for the next month, but it’s worth it! Give sacrificially to meet the needs in your community, even when the stock market is a roller coaster and jobs feel insecure. Pray for our doctors and nurses who are risking exposure so they may sacrificially care for those who are sick. Encourage those who are scared or feeling isolated.
We are all in this together.
This Sunday is Palm Sunday! We will be celebrating communion together. I encourage you to set aside some crackers and some juice so that you can participate from home.
We will also wrap up our 40 Days Of Promise series.
In the meantime, we will continue to offer meetings through Zoom. Have you tried it yet? It is very user friendly and easy to use.
Tuesday Bible Study- Tuesdays at 4 pm. https://zoom.us/j/691556581
Unity Groups- Thursdays at 1 pm. https://zoom.us/j/551348097
“See” you on Sunday!
P.S. You can continue to contribute to the Virus Relief Fund at https://www.unitypres.org/giving/. We have raised over $21,000 and written over 94 checks as of Sunday! Way to go!