Blog — 29th April 2020
Light in the Darkness
Global catastrophes tend to expunge goodness whilst highlighting the decadent parts of our human makeup. Bulk buying, looting food banks and coughing in the faces of key workers reveals a darker side to the pandemic of our fallenness.
But light shines in the darkness.
Just a few days ago the NHS pleaded with the British people to volunteer to help fight the spread of COVID–19. Their aim was to raise 250,000 volunteers, although many considered that to be an optimistic figure. Within days the confirmed volunteers were more than double that figure.
On a more local level, people within communities are, paradoxically, getting to know one another for the first time. Who would have thought social distancing and isolation could achieve such heights? People are passing notes through doors, introducing themselves, letting their neighbours know they are here to help, and offering to grab a food shop, medicine and other essential items.
But light shines in the darkness.
The Church has never been immune to plagues and pandemics. In its earlier days the Church was often blamed for the spread of diseases and famines. Their refusal to worship other gods was interpreted as invoking divine wrath. But, while the majority fled from plagues, Christians often stayed behind to nurse and care for the impoverished and sick.
“This I well know, that if it were Christ or his mother who were laid low by illness everybody would be so solicitous and would gladly become a servant or helper.
Church historians have penned numerous examples where Christians have been at the forefront of pandemics. One example is found in the sixteenth-century, when, in 1527, a case of the bubonic plague was discovered in Wittenberg, home to the reformer, Martin Luther. Wittenberg University was forced to shut, and Luther was left unable to teach his students. Many fled Wittenberg, and Luther was expected to leave also. Instead, Luther wrote a polemic on why Christians should stay. In this letter, Luther says the following (a popular citation):
“This I well know, that if it were Christ or his mother who were laid low by illness everybody would be so solicitous and would gladly become a servant or helper. Everyone would want to be bold and fearless; nobody would flee but everyone would come running… If you wish to serve Christ and to wait on him, very well, you have your sick neighbour close at hand. Go to him and serve him, and you will surely find Christ in him … whoever wants to serve Christ in person would surely serve his neighbour as well”.
Luther goes on to praise medicine as well as warning others of their own hygiene and social distancing.
In times of crisis it is not that a new opportunity to be a good witness has suddenly arisen, rather, we begin to stand out amidst the darkness. Christians do not hold all the answers for this pandemic. In fact, “it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead.”
The Covid–19 landscape is different wherever you look. I think of the impoverished church in many parts of India, given just four hours’ notice for lockdown. Many already in severe poverty, knowing all too well that their government will remain tight fisted as they wonder how they are going to supply their next meal. We pray for our brothers and sisters as they strive to be light in the darkness.
Whatever your situation, Christians, where they are able, can shape a pandemic into something that brings glory to our Father. As we demonstrate ongoing love for our neighbours through compassionate everyday acts, Christians can, and do Join others in making a difference.
We might not have all the answers, but for many, we are their answer as we offer the light of Christ in the darkness.
Written by Josh Bloor
Josh works a day a week at NTC within the marketing department, focusing specifically on external relations. Alongside his role, Josh is part of the pastoral team in his church community, as well as a PhD student in New Testament, working primarily in The Epistle to the Hebrews.