Thursday, October 25, 2007

Where are you on the pandemic vaccination schedule?

The United States government is working on a vaccination rationing schedule in the case of influenza pandemic. The Department of Health and Human Services announced the plan earlier this week. The opening sentence of the report says this:
Effective allocation of vaccines will play a critical role in preventing influenza and reducing its effects on health and society when a pandemic arrives.
"When" not "if." The emphasis is mine. Followers of Christ should think about how the Gospel works when a killing disease is spreading across their nation.

Once a pandemic hits, production will not be able to keep up with need so the population has been divided into 4 tiers and descending priority levels to receive the limited supplies of vaccine. The highest priority category includes military and homeland security personnel, health-care and emergency medical workers, police, firemen, pregnant women and young children.

I am in the lowest priority category (healthy adults, 19-64 years old) as I imagine most evangelical pastors are. I have no complaints about it.

How will American Christians respond to a deadly pandemic? Will we clamour for the vaccine without regard for our neighbors? Will we be terrorized like those who have no hope? Those of us who know the Gospel should minister out of the grace that we receive in Christ, and should prefer others above ourselves and teach our people to do the same.

Our brothers and sisters have faced this kind of situation before. We can learn from their example.

In the 3rd century Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, preached to his people to minister to those affected by a great plague that laste from 252 to 254. Unbelievers were so terrified of the disease that they left infected loved ones on the streets to die. Christians, who had been severely persecuted a few years before under Decian, ministered to such persons and took care even of their enemies, having been admonished by their pastor to remember the way of Christ to do good to those who hate us.

Cyprian, who a few years later was beheaded for his faith, wrote a small treatise entitled, On the Mortality, to encourage the church to stand firm in the face of the devastating plague. In it are found these triumphant lines:
What a grandeur of spirit it is to struggle with all the powers of an unshaken mind against so many onsets of devastation and death! what sublimity, to stand erect amid the desolation of the human race, and not to lie prostrate with those who have no hope in God; but rather to rejoice, and to embrace the benefit of the occasion; that in thus bravely showing forth our faith, and by suffering endured, going forward to Christ by the narrow way that Christ trod, we may receive the reward of His life and faith according to His own judgment!
The people of Carthage were amazed at the response of the followers of Christ to the plague. While others were fleeing the infected, Christians were humbly putting their own lives at risk by nursing the sick. As a result the Gospel was put on display and its proclamation was given a loud voice. Many former enemies became believers.

The time to prepare for tragedy is before it strikes. The way to prepare is to drink deeply from the wells of God's grace in the Gospel. Knowing and delighting in Jesus sets us free from the tyranny of death and dying. And it empowers us to show the way of liberty to those who are held captive to such fears


Denny Burk said...

Amen, brother Tom! This little post has edified and challenged me deeply.


GUNNY said...

I'll take one for the team; somebody can have mine.

Of course, I'm not a fan of flu shots or vaccinations in general. I think Americans tend to over-medicate and over-vaccinate, but that's really a different issue.

I'm reminded of Dr. Patterson's comments after the Virgina Tech shooting about how he would expect Christian men to "man up" and take care of the bad guys, rather than running away.

I applaud that. As Christians we have no excuse for cowardice, whether the foe is an evildoer with a gun or a disease.

To live is Christ; to die is gain, not just for Paul, mind you.

Gig 'em,

Brian said...

This was a righteous post.

Rock on bro!

Bryant King said...

When you get in that vaccination line Tom, just introduce yourself as Dr. Ascol. If possible, borrow a stethoscope and hang it around your neck.

Putting the joking aside, this is a challenging message. In repentance I will tell you that I didn't respond immediately but instead contemplated the excuses for why I could disregard this message- "Yes, but, but, children." Then I thought about Abraham's call to sacrifice Isaac, and I contemplated the words of Luke 9:23-24 and 2 Timothy 2:11-13.

"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it."

"For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him..."

It struck me that we can not expect/demand some miraculous disease protection from God just because we reach to those with contagious disease- although I would still prayerfully request it.

We may never see a plague in my lifetime, but we have people with diseases in our churches and in our lives- diseases like hepatitis and HIV. The likelihood of contracting these diseases through Christian hospitality and fellowship seem to be nonexistent. We are blessed to have born again, regenerate brothers and sisters who carry some of these scars of sin into our churches. These outward physical signs of past sin should cause us all to consider our undiagnosed, invisible scars which our sins have produced in us. In other words, the presence of medical diseases resulting from sin in some of us should cause us to consider the disease of sin present in us all, even if there is no medical test to detect our scars of sin. What a wonderful reminder to praise God for His mercy and grace in saving us sinners.

Thank you Tom for your encouragement. Thank you for the historical example. Thank you for pointing out that it is sin to not willingly reach out to brothers and sisters and even enemies with diseases. I needed the encouragement.

Bryant King

Worship Leader Ron said...

Wow, great post! Thank you for the reminder and encouragement to stand for Christ in every, even the darkest, of circumstances.

I am reminded of a conversation I recently had with a Disaster Relief coordinator in my state who mentioned that many living in the path of Hurricane Katrina are recognizing that after FEMA and all the other organizations have left, it is Christians who are still investing in the lives of those still, years later, trying to rebuild.

May we be a light displaying Christ's infinite value when we minister to our neighbors.

lordodamanor said...

Thanks ta.


Bennett Willis said...

There have been a number of good quotes on how to deal with death around us. "Let's roll" comes to mind and that was basically the thrust of Dr. P's suggestion.

After the 9/11 trauma, I would wake up in panic--not over the personal threat but over what I would have said if I had been talking with my wife as the plane flew toward the Pentagon. Could I have said to her, "You have to try to take back the plane. Anything less is unacceptable"? Could I have thrown my books and then my chair and body at Virginia Tech? Could I have nursed a person with aids when we knew the problem but did not understand fully how the disease was transmitted?

"I hope so," is about the best I can do.

Bennett Willis

GUNNY said...

Yeah, I think that's all anyone of us could hope for, that by God's grace we would have the courage to do the right thing.

Of course, it's hard to have any greater confidence not having been there.

It's easy for us to type such things from the privacy of an easy chair, but in the reality of the situation I hope we would be pleasing to the Lord in giving of ourselves for others.

Joseph said...

"The highest priority category includes military and homeland security personnel, health-care and emergency medical workers, police, firemen, pregnant women and young children."

Ahem...what about teachers...specifically band directors... :-)

peterorpaul said...

We may have a problem doing the right thing by others who are need of a vaccine given the plans by DHS to force immunizations on many. What will we do then to do the right thing?