Charles Moore and Pandemic Love

Let’s ask ourselves “How is God calling me, my family, and our community to live so that a piece of God’s New Creation is fashioned through our abundant, self-giving love to the world?”… During the plague in Alexandria when nearly everyone else fled, the early Christians risked their lives for one another by simple deeds of washing the sick, offering water and food, and consoling the dying.

I came across the article, “Pandemic Love,” by Charles Moore through Jason Clark’s blog. Moore recounts the early Christians’ response to severe plagues that ripped through the Roman Empire.

I pasted a large portion of Moore’s article in this blog. It’s a great reminder of how God’s people are to live for the sake of the world. We’re not to worry about our own safety, comfort and protection. Our lives are larger than just our current lives. Our lives are as eternal as God’s kingdom, so life and death in this dimension, although mysterious, is not all there is. It’s a mere drop in the bucket. And as frightening as risking our lives may look in this dimension, we are completely safe in our Father’s hands — even unto death.

We need to remember that even when Jesus was experiencing the great hellishness of the cross, he knew he was ultimately safe in his Father’s hands. That’s why Paul can call our most devastating crises “light and momentary troubles.” He’s not making light of human suffering. He’s viewing human suffering in this broken creation through the lens of God’s eternal kingdom that will eventually consummate an eternal New Creation of justice, goodness and beauty.

Moore’s article reminds us that we must live our lives now in anticipation of that New Creation. We must live abundant, self-giving, sacrificial lives for the sake of the world. That IS life in the Spirit. And it is the Spirit, through God’s community of renewed image-bearers, that will create the materials from which Christ will shape God’s New Creation.

We may not know how Christ will eventually renew the earth, but we can be sure that he will use everything that our Spirit-empowered lives produce now as the raw materials. N.T. Wright says that each of us is like a mason, crafting stonework in preparation for the construction of a cathedral. We don’t know how the master architect will use our work to create the building, but we know he will. We must be faithful to the portions of the building material he has commissioned us to create and trust him in designing and constructing the building.

So with that, here’s a portion of Moore’s article on “Pandemic Love.” Let’s ask ourselves “How is God calling me, my family, and our community to live so that a piece of God’s New Creation is fashioned through our abundant, self-giving love to the world?”

“In stark contrast to such hopelessness and fear, Christians showed how their faith made this life—and even death—meaningful. Cyprian, for example, almost welcomed the great epidemic of his time, knowing that it was an opportunity for the church to give witness to the hope that was within them. He was so overwhelmed by a sense of confidence that the members of the Alexandrian church were accused of regarding the plague as a time of festival.

Instead of fear and despondency, then, the earliest Christians expended themselves in works of mercy that simply dumbfounded the pagans. For them God loved humanity, and in order to love God back they believed they needed to love others. God did not demand ritual sacrifices; he wanted his love expressed in deeds of compassion on earth.

This love took on very practical, concrete forms. In Rome, Christians buried not just their own, but pagans who had died without funds for a proper burial. They also supplied food for 1,500 poor people on a daily basis. In Antioch of Syria, the number of destitute persons the church was feeding had reached 3,000. Church funds were also used in special cases to buy the emancipation of Christian slaves.

During the plague in Alexandria when nearly everyone else fled, the early Christians risked their lives for one another by simple deeds of washing the sick, offering water and food, and consoling the dying. Their care was so extensive that Emperor Julian eventually tried to copy the church’s welfare system. His efforts failed, however, because for Christians it was love—not duty—that was their motivation.

The first Christians not only took care of their own, but also reached out far beyond themselves. Their faith led to a pandemic (pan = all; demos = people) of love. Consequently, at the risk of their own lives, they saved an immense number of lives. Their elementary nursing greatly reduced mortality. Simple provisions of food and water allowed the sick who were temporarily too weak to cope for themselves to recover instead of perishing miserably.

Pagans couldn’t help but notice that Christians not only found strength to risk their lives, but they also noticed that in caring for one another they were much less likely to die. Christian survivors of the plague became immune, and therefore they were able to pass among the afflicted with apparent invulnerability. In fact, those most active in nursing the sick were the very ones who had already contracted the disease early on, but who were cared for by their brothers and sisters. In this way, the early Christians became, in the words of one scholar, “a whole force of miracle workers to heal the ‘dying.’” Or as historian Rodney Spark puts it, “It was the soup they [the Christians] so patiently spooned to the helpless that healed them.”

In the midst of intermittent persecution and colossal misunderstanding, and in an era when serving others was thought to be demeaning, the “followers of the way”—instead of fleeing disease and death—went about ministering to the sick and helping the poor, the widowed, the crippled, the blind, the orphaned, and the aged. The people of the Roman Empire were forced to admire their works and dedication. “Look how they love one another,” was heard on the streets.”

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