Suddenly Christian History Matters! | Daily Grace Series


The world has changed at an
unprecedented pace over the last several decades, especially in the West. This is
in contrast to some time periods in human history when change was happening,
but the pace was very, very slow. Of course, there have been some other times,
such as the Industrial Revolution, when changes were dramatic and really
widespread. The thing is that when you live in a time of rapid, global change,
one of the troubling tendencies is to see yourself as an especially
enlightened modern person who has little need to learn from those poor folks back
in the past. And this has been a real challenge for modern Christianity I
think. It’s been hard for us to be willing to go back and learn from
Christians of past centuries because their world just seems so outdated
compared to ours. But Hebrews 12:1 points us back to this great cloud of witnesses
that has walked by faith before us, and Romans 15:4 says that we find endurance
and encouragement when we read in the scriptures about God’s people in former
days. Both of those verses may be talking about things recorded in the Bible, but I
think there’s a principle there that we can apply even to Christian history
since the Bible was written. We can learn from the faith of those who have trusted
and followed Jesus in very different times than our own. And so, now we, very
modern people, suddenly find ourselves dealing with something that Christians
have been dealing with for the past 2,000 years and that is a time when a
particular disease is spreading in an unusual way. I’ve been fascinated to see
over the past couple weeks how many articles have popped up about Christian
history. Suddenly, Christian history matters! Suddenly, we’d like to learn from
people who’ve lived through things like this before.
Of course, we’ve all heard about the influenza pandemic of 1918 and there
were lots of articles written about the Christian response during that time. Kind
of ironically, one of the encouraging things for me was to see how the way in
which churches should respond was as controversial back then
as it’s been today. Going back a little bit further, the Spurgeon Center recently
put out a great article summarizing Charles Spurgeon’s response to the
cholera epidemic in London in 1854. There was actually a 14-year cholera
pandemic in many parts of the world, but it really struck home in a neighborhood
right by the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London in 1854. And I was especially
encouraged to see how Spurgeon, really even though he was you know traveling
preacher, in many ways focused his attention right on his church family and
put his time into careful pastoral care during that very difficult time in
central London. Going back even further, you can read online a fascinating letter
by Martin Luther titled “Whether one may flee from a deadly plague.” You’re
probably familiar with the “Black Death” or the “Bubonic Plague” that may have cut
the population of Europe in half in the 14th and 15th centuries. When it came
through Wittenburg in Germany in the early 1500s, Luther and his wife lived
through that, risked their lives to serve and take care of people through that. And
it was actually after that, that another pastor in an area that was
getting hit by the bubonic plague asked for Luther’s advice and he wrote
this letter. It’s very likely that Luther is actually referring to the bubonic
plague in the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” when he when he says that our God is “our
helper he amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.” Suddenly, Christian history
matters. And so, let’s take this as a good reminder that we have this great cloud
of witnesses that has gone before us and we’re never so advanced and modern that
we cannot learn a great amount from their faith and their wisdom, even when
their setting was very very different from ours. So, let’s close with some very
old words that might as well be brand new today. “Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would losing; Were not the right man on our side,
the man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he; Lord Sabaoth his name,
from age to age the same, And he must win the battle.”

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