For the Christian, bearing witness is most completely lived out through the act of giving one’s life as a witness to one’s faith. Throughout our history, the examples of extraordinary men and women abound. Often, there is a nexus of circumstance and personal witness. I think of Constance and her companions during the yellow fever epidemic in Memphis in the 19th century, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the rise of the Nazi state, or Jonathan Daniels in Alabama.
In these last days, we have heard much about Ebola. We have heard measured words from scientists, prayerful sentiments from pastors, self-serving rhetoric from politicians, and apocalyptic pronouncements from the fringe.
What we may miss is a relentless faithfulness and bearing of witness in these extraordinary times. Much of it is being lived out without notice or care in western Africa. In isolated cases, it is being seen by nurses and doctors in this country. I am reminded of the early AIDS workers who gave human dignity to those suffering from a silent, albeit slower, killer.
I find myself unsettled by a subtle selfishness witnessed in some of the initial hysteria as the first Ebola case came to the United States. Where was our concern before Mr. Duncan’s trip to Dallas? The witness of a humanitarian community is not closure of airports. Rather it is the opening of access to resources.
We who are followers of Jesus, who touched and healed the leper and asked “Who is our neighbor?” bids us to bear witness by demanding that our response to this health crisis, and all health concerns, be not about us but about all God’s children.
In the days ahead, let us wonder who we will advocate for and let us press those in authority for a compassionate response. Let us not wait for self-interest to be our motivator. Let us be motivated by our yearning to bear witness to the unselfish, fearless love of Jesus, who risks all for all.
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