Blood That Heals (Gospel Lessons from EBOLA)

I have found that you members of this congregation pay close attention to world events.  That seems right … part of our Great Commission responsibility and our concern to present a holistic gospel.  So “Ebola” is not a surprising sound or word to you.  The current version of this horrific virus has attacked Liberia, a fascinating nation in Africa because of its past connection to American slave resettlement efforts.  Ebola’s vigor has made that a story for another day.  The Ebola virus has impacted thousands, and it kills approximately half of those who contract it.

Courageous doctors and medical staff (especially those involved with Christian medical ministries like Sudan Interior Mission and Samaritan’s Purse) have actually gone into these places of suffering instead of running for home.  In this way, they join a long train of Christians who did not count their own lives too precious to risk them for the lives and comfort of others (including the persecuted saints under the Roman Empire during their all-too-common city plagues).

With excellent medical care, some of those who become infected with Ebola recover (actually 50%), so this risk taken on by Christian doctors is not at all symbolic or suicidal.  No surprise, then, that some of these Western doctors and nurses contract the deadly virus, and some of them succumb to it.

That Anglos are dying from an African disease has our news media buzzing in typical ways:  Some reporters and editorialists are impressed with this level of self-sacrifice.  Others are up-in-arms about this “waste” of good medical talent and/or the ensuing hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent to bring the dying Americans to Atlanta for the best treatment (… and thus jeopardizing us)!

What many have missed in all of the uproar is a powerful gospel picture ~ a medical reality which helps me remember and appreciate what Jesus Christ has done for me as the Greatest Physician.  The risk of mentioning this is that so many of you are medical professionals (or at least sincere hobbyists).  No doubt I will get some of the terminology wrong here.  Please show mercy!

This story involves Drs. Brantly and Sacra, plus a Liberian youth and some role-players.  Kent Brantly was one of a number of Christian medical professionals who have served mightily in Liberia to help the thousands who contracted Ebola in the past few months.  I am sorry to observe that we know Brantly’s name because he was one of these doctors who contracted the virus and so was very close to death.  His breathing was so labored that those who were caring for him in Liberia estimated that he would not survive his first night of tremors.  By God’s grace, they were able to fly Brantly to Atlanta’s Emory University, where part of his treatment involved receiving a blood transfusion from a Liberian youth who had contracted Ebola … and survived.

See, in such a case, the one who was close to death ~ yet survived ~ is now immune from the Ebola virus.  I believe this means that such a one cannot get that strain of the virus again, and his blood becomes an incredibly valuable resource for the healing of others.  Brantly was cured!  His near-death-experience was in late August; already his strengthened blood has been given to another infected missionary doctor, Richard Sacra, who was walking yesterday, arm-in-arm, with his wife!  Dr. Brantly plans to go back into Liberia since he cannot contract Ebola, he is safe, and his blood can save.  Oh, the Liberian youth who donated his strong blood to save Brantly was one of his patients weeks ago!

The Bible tells us to comfort others who suffer with the comfort with which we were first comforted (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).  And lest we take credit for being (small-s) saviors, worship all the more our Creator-God who designed our bodies and blood so wonderfully.  Let us observe, as well, that at the beginning of this saving blood-line is the blood of Jesus Christ, the One who insisted on coming into this infected world ~ never thinking that He might survive it ~ but planning to die, that we might live, and then spread this gospel-blood to the many who are dying in this world.