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  • Writer's pictureDavid Winkler

Luther on Responding to Plagues

" ... when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness."  Isaiah 26:9

I'm writing this on March 17, 2020, when it seems that the Coronavirus situation is on everyone's mind.  Besides affecting schools, businesses, travel, and the stock market, it's also affecting our churches. My own church here in Austin is probably not going to meet again until at least after May 1. That includes weekly rehearsals for the orchestra I direct.  Though these inconveniences are unfortunate, it seems that almost everyone understands the urgency to take precautions to prevent the spread of the disease.      Christians in past generations often regarded plagues and other disasters as part of God's corrective judgment.  Indeed, this seems to be a theme throughout scripture.  God is not in heaven, throwing bolts of lightning down upon us.  But it does get our attention, whether it be in our personal lives or on a national level, when we encounter various difficulties.  At such times, we should search our hearts, humble ourselves before Almighty God, repent of our sins, and remember that ultimately God is in control of the universe.       A friend from Germany posted the following quote from a letter Martin Luther wrote to a fellow minister regarding an epidemic that occurred in the year 1527.  It shows, I think, a great balance between trusting in God's care and using the common sense He has given us.  Luther wrote:

" ... I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God."                                                        —from Martin Luther's Works, Volume 43      May the Lord bless us all in these uncertain days.  And hopefully, before too long, we can get back to our lives and making music together!


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