Pastor Barbara’s Devotion for Tuesday, September 29, 2020:
Photo by Vicky Sim on Unsplash
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13
How do we access this strength Paul speaks of in Philippians? Well, others who have gone before us can help us see our way through.
Did you know that the early church suffered two massive epidemics in the first two centuries of its existence? I ran across an article by Brian Stiller that lays it out. In the reign of Marcus 1 Aurelius 165-180 BCE, presumably small pox took out 1/3 of all Roman citizens. Then, in 251 BCE, another epidemic hit, most likely measles, ”resulting in another massive loss of life.”
How did those early Christians fare? And what can we learn from them?
First, they took care of people, all people, Christian or not. They could not know about transmission of the disease like we do, but they did all they could to help the victims and their families. As a result, the church rose in esteem within their communities. Where they had been seen as a cult, they began to be respected as a caring community.
Secondly, Christians were bolstered by their faith, and it affected their actions. Stiller quotes sociologist, Rodney Stark, “…disasters struck, the Christians were better able to cope, and this resulted in ‘substantially higher rates of survival’ (Stark). This meant that in the aftermath of each epidemic, Christians made up a larger percentage of the population, even without new converts.”
Thirdly, many were left without their support systems, so the church reached out to them and drew them into their community of faith.
As part of our Christian heritage we can follow the path of those early Christians. We can pray for each other, reach out within the constraints of Covid-19 restrictions, and respond to each persons’ needs, by what ever communications is possible. And we can live in hope, trusting that our God is with us. When we do this, we can set aside political ideologies and divides, and do all we can to celebrate God’s love and grace as we know it. And we can promote unity among us all, as we set an example, bolstered by our faith, that we can, indeed, do all things through Christ who strengthens us!