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Yes, I know that the plural of virus if viruses. But did you know that viri in Latin means, among other things, heroes? I am thinking that, with what is going on internationally as the coronavirus spreads, we could use a rapid and wide circulation of heroes in our world.

Last night I read an article from The Christian Post, published October 16, 2014, written by Eric Metaxas. The following are excerpts from the article. “Between 250 and 270 A.D. a terrible plague, believed to be measles or smallpox, devastated the Roman Empire. At the height of what came to be known as the Plague of Cyprian … 5,000 people died every day in Rome alone. … Decius and other enemies of the Church blamed Christians for the plague. That claim was, however, undermined by two inconvenient facts: Christians died from the plague like everybody else and, unlike everybody else, they cared for the victims of the plague, including their pagan neighbors.

“This wasn’t new – Christians had done the same thing during the Antonine Plague a century earlier. As Rodney Stark wrote in The Rise of Christianity, Christians stayed in the afflicted cities when pagan leaders, including physicians, fled. … By their actions in the face of possible death, Christians showed their neighbors that Christianity is worth dying for.

“This witness came to mind after listening to a recent story on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. Host Robert Siegel interviewed Stephen Rowden, who volunteered for Doctors Without Borders in Monrovia, Liberia. Rowden’s grim task was to manage the teams that collected bodies of Ebola victims. Rowden and his team retrieved 10-to-25 bodies a day. Since close contact with the victims is the chief means by which the usually-deadly virus is spread, Rowden and his team members lived with the risk of becoming victims themselves.

“Rowden’s experience prompted Siegel to ask him if he was a religious man, to which Rowden replied, ‘I am. Yes, I’m a practicing Christian.’ When Siegel then asked whether what he saw tested his faith, Rowden said that ‘No, I got great strength from my faith and the support of my family.’ Nearly eighteen centuries after the Plague of Cyprian, Christianity still prompts people to run towards the plague when virtually everyone else is running away.”

The Antonine Plague (165-180 AD), with an estimated five million deaths – as much as 1/3 of the population in some areas – preceded the Plague of Cyprian (249-262 AD). With the Bubonic Plague (14th century), somewhere between 30-60% of the population in Europe died. The swine flu (2009-2010) caused 12,469 deaths. Ebola (2013-2016) brought about another 11,325 deaths – with all but 15 in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. We don’t know the “how long” or the “how many” of the coronavirus, but I do believe this time calls for wise and caring heroes – and where better for them to rise up that from the ranks of the body of Christ on earth?

Certainly a huge part of being a wise and caring hero is doing what we, personally, can to limit both the spread of the virus (starting with washing our hands!) and the spread of hysteria – which includes remembering “in (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight” (Ephesians 1.7-8) … and praying “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory may give (many) the Spirit of wisdom” (Ephesians 1.17) … “to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known.” (Ephesians 3.9-10) I am not sure, but I think the second step is to assist in spreading good information and loving care for the most vulnerable.

From this start, I will pray that you, living in the promise of Isaiah 41.10 ("Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand") rise up as a part of the “viral viri” I expect to see.

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