SARS CRISIS: Thoughts from A Pastor

Saturday, 31 May 2003 @ 07:31 AM SGT

Contributed by: Admin

[1] WHERE IS YOUR GOD?
When non Christians see the reports re a pastor dying of Sars and of a Christian doctor dying.... they ask: "Where is your God?" I sensed the Lord saying this as I read the report re the Christian doctor in the papers today (Tuesday) " Where am I in this? I am here. In the lives of those who
laid down their lives for others."

[2] A PAGE FROM CHURCH HISTORY:
3rd century, Carthage [from Internet sources]
"Shortly after the end of the persecution, a terrible plague passed through the empire, and carried off vast numbers of people. Many of the heathen thought that the plague was sent by their gods to punish them for allowing the Christians to live; and the mobs of towns broke out against the
Christians, killing some of them, and hurting them in other ways.

But instead of returning evil for evil, the Christians showed what a spirit of love they had learnt from their Lord and Master; and there was no place where this was more remarkably shown than at Carthage. The heathen there were so terrified by the plague that they seemed to have lost all natural feeling, and almost to be out of their senses. When their friends fell sick, they left them to die without any care; when they were dead, they cast out their bodies into the street, and the corpses which lay about unburied were not only shocking to look at, but made the air unwholesome,
so that there was much more danger of the plague than before. But while the heathen were behaving in this way, and each of them thought only of himself, Bishop Cyprian called the Christians of Carthage together, and told them that they were bound to do very differently. "It would be no wonder," he said, "if we were to attend to our own friends; but Christ our Lord charges us to do good to heathens and publicans also, and to love our enemies. He prayed for them that persecuted Him, and if we are His disciples, we ought to do so too." And then the good bishop went on to tell his people what part each of them should take in the charitable work. Those who had money were to give it, and were to do such acts of kindness as they could besides. The poor, who had no silver or gold to spare, were to give their labour in a spirit of love. So all classes set to their tasks gladly, and they nursed the sick and buried the dead, without asking whether they were Christian or heathens.

When the heathens saw these acts of love, many of them were brought to wonder what it could be that made the Christians do them, and how they came
to be so kind to poor and old people, to widows, and orphans, and slaves; and how it was that they were always ready to raise money for buying the
freedom of captives, or for helping their brethren who were in any kind of trouble. And from wondering and asking what it was that led Christians to
do such things, which they themselves would never have thought of doing, many of the heathen were brought to see that the Gospel was the true
religion, and they forsook their idols to follow Christ." ( from Internet sources)
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Pastor's footnote:
A few decades after Constantine the Christian Emperor, Julian who came to power in AD355, was the last Roman emperor to try to re institute paganism.
In one of his writings, Julian mused that if the 'old religion' wanted to succeed, it would need to care for people even better than the way Christians cared.....

Julian's pagan revival did not succeed.

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A SECOND READING FROM THE THIRD CENTURY
Bishop Cyprian's treatise "On the MORTALITY" was written after the great plague which hit Carthage. It addresses the reality of physical suffering
and death from a martyr's point of view.

He says: "There are certain people who have been troubled by the fact that this disease has attacked believers and nonbelievers alike. It would seem
as if the purpose of our whole life as Christians were to enjoy the happiness of this world, and as if we were immune from any contact with its
evils, not having to endure all the adversities we meet here. Indeed, it would seem as if our full happiness were not reserved for a future time!
Yet what is there in this world which is not common to us all, so long as we all are subject to the same law of birth and remain on earth, although
we may indeed share our bodily form with the rest of humanity, our spiritual form sets us apart."

He continues by stating that this is a time of testing the hearts of people and a time of training for those who call themselves Christians: "... beloved brethren, what is it, what a great thing is it, how pertinent, how necessary, that pestilence and plague which seems horrible and deadly,
searches out the righteousness of each one, and examines the minds of the human race, to see whether they who are in health tend the sick; whether relations affectionately love their kindred; whether masters pity their languishing servants; whether physicians do not forsake the beseeching patients; whether the fierce suppress their violence; whether the rapacious can quench the ever insatiable ardour of their raging avarice even by the fear of death; whether the haughty bend their neck; whether the wicked soften their boldness; whether, when their dear ones perish, the rich, even then bestow anything, and give, when they are to die without heirs. Even although this mortality conferred nothing else, it has done this benefit to Christians and to God's servants that we begin gladly to desire martyrdom as we learn not to fear death. These are trainings for us, not deaths: they give the mind the glory of fortitude; by contempt of death they prepare for the crown..."

[Documents from the internet version of the "Ante-Nicene Fathers: The writings of the Fathers down to AD325" and other translations].

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