Martin Luther

Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague

Here is a must read gem from Martin Luther’s life and ministry. This entire post is taken from T.F. Lull’s book Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings.

Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague (1527)

On August 2, 1527 a case of the plague was discovered in Wittenberg. The university was closed and the students sent home, but Luther remained in the city and was busy with the pastoral and practical care of the sick. He was urged by correspondents from various places to give advice on what a Christian’s responsibility is at such a time. In November Luther finally got around to responding to a pastor in Breslau in what was published as an open letter to all.

Luther fought against the notion that faith would protect one against the plague, and he urged those who could rightly do so to leave. But some must stay, including doctors, pastors, public officials, and any person on whom an afflicted person is dependent.

Luther also shows a great deal of interest in practical reforms that could help the situation from locating cemeteries outside the town to the provision of hospitals for the care of the sick to cautious behavior on the part of those who have been exposed to the plague.

But the note that sounds most clearly is his appeal for Christians to care for the sick despite any aversion to them and fear of disease. In his typical blunt way Luther says:

This I well know, that if it were Christ or his mother who were laid low by illness everybody would be so solicitous and would gladly become a servant or helper. Everyone would want to be bold and fearless; nobody would flee but everyone would come running.…If you wish to serve Christ and to wait on him, very well, you have your sick neighbor close at hand. Go to him and serve him, and you will surely find Christ in him….

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