3/24/2020

HOW MARTIN LUTHER CONFRONTED A DEADLY VIRUS PANDEMIC

We are not the first people to have to deal with a deadly pandemic. The Black Death killed millions in 14th century Europe, and Martin Luther had to face a deadly pandemic in the 16th century.

When the Bubonic Plague came to Luther’s hometown of Wittenberg in August of 1527, he responded with faith and some of the same procedures being implemented today to combat the coronavirus. These included social distancing, prayer, and medical treatment.
The plague was spread by fleas, carried by rodents. The infected fleas passed it to humans who passed it through the air and by contact. It was a nasty disease with symptoms of fever, speech disorders, large boils that infected the bloodstream and loss of consciousness. A healthy individual could die within 10 days or less after contracting the disease.
Many panicked and departed Wittenberg to escape the plague. Luther and his wife, Katie, chose to remain and minister to the sick. He did not condemn those who left but stated that no one should leave his sick neighbor unless there was someone to care for them in their stead. He said, “In such cases we must respect the word of Christ, I was sick and you did not visit me …” (Matt. 25:41–46).
Luther’s approach was one of fearless faith, compassion for the sick, and good common sense. On their decision to remain and minister to the sick, he wrote,
Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God (Luther’s Works, v. 43, p. 132).
Even though their medical knowledge and treatments were simple, their faith was deep and strong. Neither Luther nor Katie contracted the disease and 3 months later, the plague was over.
We should follow Luther’s example by heeding the advice of the medical professionals and our government officials. Like Luther, we should give no place to fear. Our faith in God should be a shining light in this moment of darkness. We must also pray fervently, as Jesus taught in the Lord’s prayer, that we will be delivered from this coronavirus evil (Matt. 6:13).
The Bubonic Plague passed away and Luther had many more years of fruitful service. In the same way, this coronavirus pandemic will pass and I expect to see, in the days ahead, greater displays of God’s grace and goodness than we have ever seen before.
Dr. Eddie Hyatt is the author of numerous books, including his latest, 1726: The Year that Defined America, which documents how the Great Awakening had a direct bearing on the founding of Ameica and the abolishing of slavery on this contienent. You can read about his vision for America and the world at www.eddiehyatt.com

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