I posted the above cartoon on my Facebook profile earlier today and it has lead to some interesting discussion. I actually posted the comic because I was considering this post and looking through some various images on Google that I was considering linking to from within the post. You see, I have been struggling with how I feel much of the Western church has been responding to the Ebola epidemic. This is just my opinion and I have no data to support it, but my online twitter and Facebook feeds (I can’t say this is true of my Google+ feed) seem to be full of people responding in fear to the crisis rather than in the hope that comes from the good news of Jesus.
I understand this fear. People want to keep their loved ones safe. If keeping those loved ones safe means not responding to someone else in need by either going to them with help or responding to them in hospitality (by which many have entertained angels without knowing it) within our own country, well that stinks, but you do what you have to do to keep your loved ones safe. I understand this type of fear. After all, I believe part of my duty as a spouse and parent is to keep my family safe.
Unfortunately that type of fear isn’t very Christian. Jesus didn’t come that we might receive a spirit of fear, which keeps us from responding to crisis, but a spirit of power, love, and disciple, which causes us to respond to crisis. In the 25th chapter of the Gospel According to Matthew the King (i.e. God) separates the faithful from the unfaithful based on whether or not they have responded to Him in certain circumstances.
The King says:
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“I was sick and you looked after me.” Whoa now! That could be risky. Of course, if you and I really believe that Jesus defeated death and therefore death no longer has anything for you and I to fear, then a little old disease shouldn’t stop us from taking care of our Lord in any of His most distressing disguises. There’s no need to fear something that no longer has a stinger. A stingerless disease can’t really have a major affect on us.
This is why the Christian church has a history of running into disease devastated cities to be with and take care of the sick. There are records of Christians responding to plagues as early as the Antonine Plague of 165–180 AD. Christians ran into towns that everyone else was fleeing because they believed they had nothing to fear from the death the plague might cause, but tons to fear from not ministering to Jesus when He was sick. The church that follows the Christ Who defeated death has nothing to fear from death and we ought to act like it.
So what does this mean for those of us who are followers of Christ? Well it means we need to respond to our fears of the present disease (and future ones too) as we would to Jesus. Most of the Christians I know wouldn’t hesitate to do something if they knew it involved Jesus. If they saw Jesus sick they would stop and help. The problem is we often simply don’t see Jesus where we should. For example, in West Africa right now. If we Christians saw Jesus right now in West Africa we would do everything we could to make sure He was ok.
Well Jesus is in West Africa RIGHT NOW and we need to realize it and get to work taking care of Him. We need to do everything we can to send over all the aide and help we can manage (and maybe even more than we can manage) and we need to respond in hospitality to those that need to come over to the States. Will this open us up to risks? Yep, it sure will. It might not make for good foreign policy but it does make for true Christianity.
After all the King of the 25th chapter of the Gospel According to Matthew had an entirely different response for those who didn’t take care of Him when He was sick. I’m not sure about you but that is one response that I don’t want to hear.