The Opportunity of Ebola
Like many of you, I was alarmed yesterday to learn that the first Ebola case in the U.S. had turned up, and in Dallas no less, a mere 80 miles from where I live. To compound the anxiety, my own sister works as a nurse at the hospital where the Ebola case was reported, though she works in the oncology division and isn't in any real danger, as far as I know. As I have reflected on the developments, I have witnessed a lot of fearmongering and agitation. It didn't take very long for President Obama to be blamed personally for Ebola coming to the U.S., though the President seems as personally culpable in this as he is in the fact that the Dallas Cowboys haven't won a Super Bowl since 1996.
The arrival of Ebola in the U.S., and all the implications of that reality, provide Christians with several opportunities.
1. Ebola gives us the opportunity to put things in perspective.
Ebola is a frightening disease without a known, or at least widely-available cure. Its rapid spread over the last several months is cause for alarm, as is its low survival rate.
Whenever Christians are faced with a reality like Ebola, it should cause us to pause and reflect on how fragile and precious life is. Our advanced, first world, 21st-century culture thinks death is the unique problem of the elderly. But death happens all around us from any number of things, and to anyone of any age. The list of things that could realistically kill me when I get out of bed in the morning is startlingly high. It's human nature to focus on the sensational instead of the likely. Lots of people avoided airplanes after 9/11, forgetting that they were still more likely statistically to be killed in an automobile crash.
Ebola, whether it becomes a legitimate threat or not, should make us pause and remember that God is sovereign over life, that he can take it whenever he wishes, and that every breath we take should be a whispered prayer of thanks for Him allowing us to live another moment in time. Life is precious. Cherish each moment. Be grateful to God for the blessing of today, and enjoy the great gifts he's placed in your life.
2. Ebola gives us the opportunity to exercise our spiritual muscles.
If there is one thing Paul often criticizes in his fellow Christians, it's a chicken little, the sky is falling attitude. He does not want Christians to be easily shaken or alarmed. He doesn't want them tossed to and fro by the waves of false doctrine, or sensational stories. Rather, he wants us to test everything and hold on to the good (1 Thess 5:21).
Fast-forward 2,000 years, and in an age of email and social media, we will report and share anything sensational, regardless of whether it's actually true. We believe what we WANT to believe and share what we WANT to share. The actual truth often takes a back seat.
In Ebola's case, a lot of misinformation has floated around, mainly due to ignorance, but fueled by our laziness in researching the truth. Ebola isn't like cholera or typhoid or malaria or polio or small pox. It's not the black plague. According to the CDC and reputable sources, you really can only contract Ebola by exchanging bodily fluids (blood, etc.) with someone who has the disease. So any thought that we're dealing with the next black plague are a bit unfounded. And to be clear, I'm not a doctor, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express.
Maybe the recent Ebola "scare" is an opportunity for Christians to show the world that we are prudent and self-controlled when it comes to the sensational. Maybe Ebola is our opportunity to stretch the spiritual muscles of "prove all things. Hold on to the good." Maybe this is an opportunity to demonstrate that we are sound, reasonable people who don't allow our emotions to take us to unhealthy extremes.
There are other muscles that Ebola should cause us to flex and exercise, including our commitment to missions. Realizing that all of life is fragile and sacred, the church should become increasingly fervent in its missionary activity. Everyone now living on earth will die at some point, whether from Ebola or a car accident or second-hand smoke or cancer or a vending machine falling on them. The message of Scripture is not WILL you die BUT WHEN you will die, which is unknown. More than that, Scripture claims that a more deadly disease, sin, has affected the entire human race. Jesus conquered sin and the grave, and that's a message that the entire world needs to hear.
3. Ebola gives us the opportunity to trust in God.
The psalmist reminds us, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God" (Psa 20:7).
As I was reading comments on social media (bad idea!) about Ebola's arrival in Dallas, it became crystal clear that we are no better than ancient Israel. No sooner had God brought Israel out of Egypt and across the Red Sea than the nation began to grumble and complain. "You never loved us. You don't care about us." Indeed, throughout Scripture, the people of God often whined about their sorry situation not too long after God had delivered and provided for them in miraculous ways.
I'm not willing to say that Kent Brantley's recovery from Ebola was a legit biblical miracle, but it certainly must be attributed to the gracious hand of God. And if God brought a person through Ebola to complete recovery, then I imagine he's capable of doing it many more times. If he doesn't, that his prerogative as well. In all things, the people of God trust in the Name of the Lord our God.
As of late, we have put our hope in a lot of things that have disappointed us. We've placed our hope in science, only to discover that science's conclusions are constantly shifting. We've placed our hope in the government, pretending that God rode on Air Force One, but the government has proven woefully inadequate in responding to the latest threats. In whom should we put our trust?
Not in horses or chariots, but in the Lord. There are many reasons to be concerned about Ebola. But I'm also grateful for the lessons it has and will teach us, the most important of which is to trust God in all things.
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