By Ruth Lawrence
This month I read a novel that is based on a true story about the plague—The Black Death that was a menace to the people living in Europe during the Middle Ages. Its symptoms were agonisingly painful. Sufferers died two to seven days after initial infection. It is a truly horrific disease. During the many outbreaks in England, millions died, reducing the population by at least 25 percent; but many estimates are higher—some even as high as 60 percent.
The novel is set during the 1665-66 outbreak. At that time, as many as could flee London left the city, not realizing that they were taking the disease along with them. And in a village in Derbyshire, the villagers knew that the plague was among them. The vicar of the village’s church came up with a heroic plan to stop the plague spreading beyond their village. One Sunday as he preached his sermon, he told the villagers that they should close the village to the outside world. No one in; no one out. In so doing, no one from the village could carry the infection to other villages and no one from outside the village could come in and be infected.
It might stop the plague, but it would also have a high cost. It would be an almost certain death sentence for nearly everyone in that village.
And the text that the vicar used in his sermon? John 15:13. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (esv). The responses from the villagers varied widely. Some left as soon as they could, some took advantage of the situation to get rich, and some stayed to try and help.
Thankfully, I probably won’t have to make such a decision—I hope! But Jesus did. He made the decision to give up His life to give us the cure we needed. He didn’t die to cure us of a medical problem like The Black Death. The disease He died to cure us of is worse than that—it is our sin. If you want to get a good idea of how bad sin is, read the first three chapters of Romans. Each and every one of us is born with this disease. We can’t quarantine ourselves to stop the spread; it’s in all of us. We can try and run away from it, but it will follow us because it will go with us. We can make the most of the situation and try to get rich and enjoy this life now, not caring about the future; or we can take the cure from Jesus and spend this life helping those around us to accept that cure too.
So what is the prescription? It’s simple. All we have to do is put our trust in Jesus. In Romans 10, Paul explains, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
When you know the cure for a terminal disease, you should take that cure to those that need it. Similarly, as Christians, we should not quarantine ourselves from the rest of the world; we are obligated to go to the people who need to hear about Jesus and tell them about the cure.