The reaction of believers to COVID-19 is often amazing. At other times it is something less than believable as conspiracy theories abound. Theories believed by and even spread by people who say they are believers. And now that a vaccine has begun to be distributed we have all the anti-vaccine people joining with the anti-mask people — again, including believers — to appose what is happening. So different in many ways from the early church’s reaction to a series of pandemics that hit the known world during the time of persecution of believers in the Roman Empire…
I am reminded of the witness of the early church in the Roman Empire. When two great waves of plagues bettered the city of Rome, tens of thousands of people were killed in the gruesome, widespread pandemics. The wealthy and able fled the cities, hoping to survive outside the crowded and dirty city centers. But the Christians? They stayed. There are records of this time, written both by pagan and Christian leaders, which note the Christian response. Eusebius, who was the bishop of Caesarea in 341 AD, recorded that during the plague, “All day long some of the Christians tended to the dying and to their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them. Others gathered together from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to them all.”
After Eusebius’ death, Emperor Julian wrote a letter to a pagan priest, complaining that the “impious Galileans” were caring for the sick and dying to such an extent that it highlighted the government’s own inaction. He suggested that the pagan (and government affiliated) priests copy what the Christians were doing. Unsurprisingly, this was not very effective. The reason? The call to die to one’s self for the sake of another is unsustainable without the love and power of a real, eternal God.
Pray with me that the unleaded church will overflow with the same kind of love and practical concern in the face of today’s worldwide pandemic just as the Christians did in Rome so long ago. And may Jesus’ Name be made known because of it.
Philippians 1:9 states, “And it my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment” (ESV).
Several other translations read:
“My prayer for you is that you will overflow more and more with love for others and at the same time keep on growing in spiritual knowledge and insight.”
And may the Lord make your love to grow and overflow to each other and to everyone else, just as our love does towards you!”
It is a great time to be alive and together we need, as the Church, to help those effected by the pandemic bringing hope and the peace of God that passes all understanding to them through the Gospel of the Kingdom. If we do this simple but profound task then we simply will not have the time to follow or to focus on and become involved in any of the conspiracy theories that spread like wildfire and poison and which eventually remove the believers true focus – showing the love of God in practical ways.
Remember, “God so loved that He gave…” and we are called to love in the same way that He first loved us.