Serving Others In Jesus’ Name

August 11, 2014 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


Credit: CBS News

Credit: CBS News

A state of emergency has been declared in Liberia.  Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria have lost more than 930 people to the virus.  Monrovia has set up a military blockade to keep people from regions known to have high instances of infections from entering the city.[1]  And the World Health Organization is meeting to discuss whether or not to use experimental drugs to try to help those infected by the virus.[2]

All this over a virus called Ebola.

The problem is that there is no known cure for Ebola and, as President Sirleaf of Nigeria noted, “ignorance and poverty, as well as entrenched religious and cultural practices, continue to exacerbate the spread of the disease.”[3]  Indeed, many people infected by the virus, rather than being quarantined at medical facilities to stem Ebola’s spread, remain at home and pass the virus on to their families.

The fear surrounding this outbreak is intense.  When Dr. Kent Brantly, a medical missionary who contracted the disease while treating patients in Liberia, was brought home for treatment here in the States, some questioned the wisdom of bringing a man infected by a dreaded disease into this country.[4]  Others took their criticism farther, like political pundit Ann Coulter, who lambasted Dr. Brantly for going to Africa in the first place:

I wonder how the Ebola doctor feels now that his humanitarian trip has cost a Christian charity much more than any services he rendered.

What was the point?

Whatever good Dr. Kent Brantly did in Liberia has now been overwhelmed by the more than $2 million already paid by the Christian charities Samaritan’s Purse and SIM USA just to fly him and his nurse home in separate Gulfstream jets, specially equipped with medical tents, and to care for them at one of America’s premier hospitals …

Can’t anyone serve Christ in America anymore?[5]

I would point out to Ms. Coulter that there are, in fact, many people and organizations that do indeed serve Christ in America like, well, Samaritan’s Purse.  You can learn more about their local relief efforts here.  I would also point out that Christ’s commission is to make disciples of “all nations” (Matthew 28:19), which, by definition, includes nations other than our own.  Finally, I would point out that the Christian Church has a long and storied history of reaching out to those in dire medical need.  For instance, in the 160s, and again in the 260s, a series of plagues struck the Roman Empire.  These plagues were so devastating that during one smallpox epidemic, a quarter to a third of the population died.  When these plagues swept through, most people – scared of becoming infected – took the sick and threw them into the streets to die.  But Christians, rather than casting the sick out, brought the sick in.  Dionysius, the bishop of Alexandria during the second sweep of plagues, writes about how Christians responded to these outbreaks:

Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty; never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and caring for others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead.[6]

The Christians in Dionysius’ day, like Dr. Brantly in our day, cared for the sick – many of them dying because of their efforts.  Dr. Brantly’s faithfulness is to be commended, not derided as Ann Coulter has done.

With this being said, all Christians need not travel to Liberia to respond faithfully to this worldwide health crisis.  We can be faithful in our prayers that the spread of Ebola would be stemmed, and we can certainly join in prayer for Dr. Brantly and others like him.  Finally, we can reach out in Christian love to the sick in our own communities, offering them our prayers and support.

When I think of Dr. Brantly’s efforts, I can’t help but believe he will hear some very pleasant words one day:  “I was sick and you looked after Me” (Matthew 25:36).  Let’s make it our goal to hear these words too.

__________________________________

[1]Liberia declares state of emergency over Ebola virus,” BBC News (8.7.2014).

[2] Sydney Lupkin, “World Health Organization to Debate Ethics of Using Experimental Ebola Drug in Outbreak,” ABC News (8.6.2014).

[3]Liberia declares state of emergency over Ebola virus,” BBC News (8.7.2014).

[4]  Joel Achenbach, Brady Dennis, & Caelainn Hogan, “American doctor infected with Ebola returns to U.S.,” The Washington Post (8.2.2014).

[5] Ann Coulter, “Ebola Doc’s Condition Downgraded To ‘Idiotic,’” anncoulter.com (8.6.2014).

[6] Dionysius of Alexandria in Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries (San Francisco:  Harper Collins, 1997), 82.

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