What would Jesus say about the Ebola epidemic? How are we to understand it given that we have an all-powerful Creator God?
We must be careful NOT to give pat, know-all answers. We don't know everything, and I doubt if anyone reading this blog — myself included — has actually experienced anything so horrific.
But Jesus did speak about a situation which bore some similarities. In Luke 13 we read about two dreadful events, both of which would have made the newspaper front pages:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them — do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:1-5, NIV)
There had been a massacre (and how much suffering is the direct result of human evil!) and also a "natural disaster" — a tower falling down. Jesus is quick to say that we must not say that this happened because the victims were specially bad people (the book of Job provides a sustained critique of this kind of thinking).
Rather than seeking to blame the victims, Jesus wants His hearers to take a warning: the unexpected nature of these events should remind us of our mortality, and the fact that one day we’ll meet our Heavenly Judge. This account in Luke is sandwiched right in between two warnings about our need to get ready for that appointment.
Surely part of the horror of Ebola is that it is something we are finding so hard to control. And it may be coming our way (newspaper coverage is specially interested in that). It shatters our self-reliance and exposes our fear of death. The epidemic is a reminder that for each of us, our times are in God’s hands — and the appointment with the Judge is one that we must each be ready for. We can only be ready by fleeing to Jesus.
By the way, did you hear about Nancy Writebol, the American missionary nurse who contracted the virus while treating patients in Liberia? There are two remarkable interviews: Here, and this one, in which she explains what motivated her to be working in Liberia.
The subject of suffering is a really tough one — but the Bible has some answers. We’ll be looking at those in our special invitation HUB meeting this Wednesday, 22nd, 7-9pm.
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