Ebola and the antidote to fear

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Ebola and the antidote to fear

October 22, 2014 -

Louise Troh does not have Ebola.  The fiancée of Thomas Eric Duncan was quarantined for 21 days after he became sick, but that period has now passed.  Nonetheless, she is struggling to find housing.  The apartment where she had paid a deposit has now been denied to her.  Employees at Texas Health Presbyterian, where Duncan was treated, have been refused access to restaurants in our area.  Parents have kept children home from school lest they come in contact with children of those who have dealt with Duncan’s family.

Dallas-Ft. Worth is my home and the nation’s fourth-largest metropolitan area with 6.5 million residents.  We have seen three Ebola cases so far.  And yet the nation views us as “Ground Zero” for Ebola in America.  Some players on the New York Giants were concerned about coming to Dallas for last Sunday’s game with the Cowboys.  One said, “I think guys might think twice if they were planning to bring their wives or their families.”  Their owner was more pragmatic: “the Cowboys are going to get it first, so it’s to our advantage.”

William Harvey claimed, “All we know is still infinitely less than all that remains unknown.”  The British physician made his statement in the 17th century, but he would still be right today.  The less we know, the more we fear.  And the more we fear, the less we trust.

Consider this observation by Robert Kaiser, retired managing editor of The Washington Post: “The Internet promotes fragmentation by encouraging the development of like-minded communities, from you and your Facebook friends to avid Tea Party supporters . . . Surveys by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press show that increasing numbers of Americans get their ‘news’ from ideologically congenial sources.  The news media are fragmenting just as American society is fragmenting—by class, by region, by religious inclination, by generation, by ethnic identity, by politics and more.”

The great need of our day is a moral and spiritual movement that unites us across our differences and empowers us to solve our problems together.  Is such a movement possible?  A businessman named Jeremiah Lamphier thought so.  On September 23, 1857, he invited the city of New York to a prayer meeting at Old North Dutch Church in Manhattan.  Six people responded.  The next week there were 14, then 23.  Within weeks the movement grew to 50,000 praying daily and spread to Boston, Philadelphia, and Cleveland.  Within two years there were one million conversions in a nation of 30 million.  The resulting Evangelical Social Awakening impacted millions more.

Is such a movement happening in New York City again?  Since 1988 more than 2,000 churches and 250,000 people have participated in concerts of prayer for the city.  “Movement Day” has been one answer to their prayers.  Led by Mac Pier and Tim Keller, 8,000 leaders from 360 cities and five continents have gathered to worship, pray, and advance collaborative partnerships that serve the needs of their cities in Jesus’ name.  Tomorrow is the fifth Movement Day.  I will be there, and ask you to pray for God’s Spirit to do a transforming work in my heart and in the lives of all who join me.

Ebola fears are making headlines where I live.  Other fears are making headlines where you live.  What is our best response?  John Newton: “If the Lord be with us, we have no cause of fear.  His eye is upon us, his arm over us, his ear open to our prayer, his grace sufficient, his promise unchangeable.”  David testified, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).

Can you say the same?

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