Faith, Not Fear
Although the town of Wuhan is now synonymous with the outbreak of the coronavirus, it is its Christian community that is currently our focus. As part of the policy of Chinese authorities to restrict gatherings of people to prevent the further spread of the virus, churches across China had been suspending services. Instead, Chinese Christians worshipped God and read the Bible at home and pastors turned to the Internet to disseminate recorded sermons, Scriptures and hymns to encourage their flock. It has been reported that the encouragement from all modern-day channels has touched the hearts of all Chinese believers, particularly those in the affected Wuhan city. A pastor from a Wuhan church said, “Many who had been previously lukewarm in their faith are now getting on their knees to call out to God.” Please keep the Christians of Wuhan in your prayers, even as some believers are risking their health to help others in their community.
During the period from 250 to 262AD in Rome, multiple plagues struck. At the height of what became known as the Plague of Cyprian, it was estimated some 5,000 people a day were dying. Most nobles, doctors, statesmen and priests left the city in hordes, leaving the poor to suffer.
Cyprian drew moralising analogies in his sermons to the Christian community and drew a word picture of the plague’s symptoms in his essay “On the Plague”. We do not affirm the teachings of Cyprian in any way, as he remains a controversial figure. However, his eyewitness description of the plague is necessary for this article:-
This trial, that now the bowels, relaxed into a constant flux, discharge the bodily strength; that a fire originated in the marrow ferments into wounds of the fauces (the throat); that the intestines are shaken with a continual vomiting; that the eyes are on fire with the injected blood; that in some cases the feet or some parts of the limbs are taken off by the contagion of diseased putrefaction; that from the weakness arising by the maiming and loss of the body, either the gait is enfeebled or the hearing is obstructed or the sight darkened – is profitable as a proof of faith. What a grandeur of spirit it is to struggle with all the powers of an unshaken mind against so many onsets of devastation and death! What sublimity, to stand erect amid the desolation of the human race and not to lie prostrate with those who have no hope in God; but rather to rejoice, and to embrace the benefit of the occasion; that in thus bravely showing forth our faith and by suffering endured, going forward to Christ by the narrow way that Christ trod, we may receive the reward of His life and faith according to His own judgement!
Even amongst the uncertainty and devastation of the coronavirus, it has been reported that believers have still been sharing the Gospel amongst those remaining in Wuhan. During the Plague of Cyprian, instead of fear and self-preservation, Christians reportedly entered the city and cared for the poor, sick and dying at great risk to their own lives. What they understood was simple: God loved humanity and so to love God back, one was supposed to love and care for others just as Jesus did. During this period, Christians not only buried their own, but also pagans who had died without proper funds for burial. Reports estimate some churches fed 3,000 people daily. Once the plague hit Alexandria, the Christians there risk their lives performing simple deeds of washing the sick, offering food and water and consoling the dying. Rome tried to even emulate this model, but it failed because they sought to do it out of duty – Christians did it in the power of God and out of love. Romans began to marvel and often whispered in the streets, “look how they love one another.” Not surprisingly, after this event, Christianity rapidly expanded.
When the world looks at us, our words, behaviour and actions, do they see Jesus?