The coronavirus challenged compassion-providing ministries in new ways
On the last day of the year in A.D. 406, aided by a land bridge of frozen ice, a band of barbarians crossed from the east to the west bank of the Rhine and into the territory of a doomed Roman Empire. No one knew the empire was doomed that day. The sun still rose over Mainz on Jan. 1 as it always had; peasants of the manor still ate potage and colewort in drafty cruck houses, mended tools and fences, and for a pastime may have skated on a horse shin bone.
It was just in hindsight that it could be seen how that day’s penetration of Rome’s most secure limites was the prelude to the sack of Rome by Alaric and the Visigoths in 410, and far beyond that to the incremental and ignominious decline of a far-flung empire.
Sometimes people living through history do not know they are living through history. Their lives are changed forever, but they see it not. “People should know when they’re conquered,” snarled Quintus to his commander Maximus. Pity that they don’t.
Sometimes people living through history do not know they are living through history.
When Caesar crossed the Rubicon nobody knew he’d “crossed the Rubicon,” so to speak. Nobody knew as we now know the long-term implications of this gesture in which Caesar and the 13th Legion stepped over the line from Cisalpine Gaul to Italy. The Rubicon was a humble river, little more than a stream, but great was its breaching in the annals of history. Mark Jan. 10, 49 B.C., as the beginning of the ending of the Roman Republic, and the first salvo of an Imperial Rome.
On Jan. 20, 1942, 15 men convened in a villa in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee at the summons of Reinhard Heydrich, their purpose to discuss a final solution to the so-called Jewish “storage” problem. Nazi persecution of the Jews had started in 1933, but another decade was needed for the locomotive of hate to reach full steam in their systematic wholesale genocide. The aproned servants at the mansion, busily trimming flowers and setting out the best china, afterward cleared tables, bid one another goodnight, and went home for supper. As did the ministers of the Interior, Justice, the Four-Year Plan, and Propaganda; the Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories; and the SS representatives, to their respective posts.
What were you doing on Feb. 25, 2019? That’s the day the Senate of the United States of America, greatest nation on earth, voted to block consideration of a Republican infanticide ban bill that would impose criminal penalties on healthcare practitioners who do not provide life-saving care to children born alive during an aborted abortion. All Democrats except three voted against a procedural motion on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.
Infuriated abortion supporters called the bill misogynistic, shaming of women, an attack on abortion rights, and unnecessary inasmuch as infanticide is already illegal. Illegal, but in my own hearing an abortionist at the hospital a mile from where I sit admitted under cross-examination by Kermit Gosnell’s lawyer Jack McMahon to placing accidentally born babies on a table under a warm blanket until they expire.
God gave ancient Canaan lots of chances. Israel was not allowed to set foot back in their Promised Land until its present occupants—the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Amorites, Girgashites, and Jebusites—had reached the full measure of their evil ways. “And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16). That iniquity was “complete,” we surmise from Scripture, when the Canaanites went all the way to infanticide:
“You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:31).
The day after Feb. 25, 2019, there were no marches in the street. No conversation I overheard departed from the normal banter. No sermon series I know of was suspended. No business as usual was interrupted. No indication was there in the town that any Rubicon was crossed, or filling up of measures had been reached. But children’s blood cried out to God from in the ground (Genesis 4:10).