Throughout Church history, Christians have gained a reputation of running into the flames when others have run away.
During the plague of Cyprian in the third century, there were upward of 5,000 deaths in the city of Rome alone. Dionysius, the bishop of Alexandre at the time, said: “Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains.”
When plague struct a locale in Germany in the sixteenth century, the reformer Martin Luther said, “We must respect the word of Christ, ‘I was sick and you did not visit me.’ According to this passage we are bound to each other in such a way that no one may forsake the other in this distress but is obliged to assist and help him as he himself would like to be helped.”
The passage that Martin Luther referred to is called the Great Judgement scene (Matthew 25:31-46). This was part of a series of teachings that Jesus gave on the end-times. At the end of the age, Jesus says he will sit on the throne of judgement and divide the people of all nations, as a shepherd separates sheep and goats. The people on his right are blessed and welcomed into the Kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the creation. The people on the left are called cursed and depart into the eternal fire prepared for Satan and his angels. The destiny of each group rests on whether they fed, quenched the thirst of, visited, clothed, looked in on, or went to Jesus in his time of need. Both groups are surprised. The group welcomed into the Kingdom does not know when they met Jesus’ need. The other group that departs to the eternal fire does not know when they failed to meet Jesus’ need. Jesus says whenever they met the need of one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine they did these things unto him.
Jesus became thirsty on the cross. His clothes were divided. He was disdained and abandoned by the world. All this he did to meet our greatest need. He even became hungry to show us that he indeed was raised from the dead. The love our Savior had for us compels us to go out into the world, even the flames, and meet the needs of our neighbors. None of us know what the outcome of COVID-19 will be once the dust settles and restrictions ease. However, every Christian is duty bound to his neighbor and to say, “Not me, but you; what can I do for my neighbor in need?”