THE FIRST EPIDEMIC.
They called it the "Black Death." It started in China around the year 1334 and quickly spread to India, Persia, Russia, and then to Europe. People started getting sick. They would become sick, sometimes quite suddenly, with a high fever. Then their throats would swell, and they would break out in a rash and a hacking cough; black spots would appear on their faces and, within a few days, they would die. In just a few years, 60 million people died of the plague. In fact, the plague was so widespread in Europe that almost one of every four Europeans died. In the late nineteenth century, the plague reappeared in Hong Kong and then in other places, particularly India, where 10 million people died over the next twenty years.
An epidemic of influenza the "flu" started among soldiers who fought in northern France late in World War I, around 1918. Thousands of soldiers experienced the fever, chills, and nausea associated with the virus. The epidemic spread around the world as some of those soldiers left France. Hundreds of millions of people became sick. An estimated 20 million died a greater number than those who were killed by bullets and bombs in the war.
A plague of a different kind, far more deadly than the bubonic plague (as "the Black Death" has become known) or influenza, has spread throughout the world today. It threatens close to 5 billion people the inhabitants of every nation and household in the world. It's called sin.
Ever since the first man and woman sinned by disobeying God (check out Genesis 3), we've all been born with a sinful nature. That means we're all infected with a condition that makes it natural for us to do what's wrong. We may sometimes make poor choices because we're confused about what's right or wrong. We may sometimes give in to pressure from friends. Or we may do wrong things because we've developed bad habits. But the ultimate reason we make wrong choices is because we are sinners.
That doesn't mean we have to make wrong choices. There is a cure for this plague: the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. He not only paid the penalty for our sins, he also conquered sin and death so that we can stop making wrong choices. By praying to him and trusting him, we can start making right choices.
REFLECT: Do you think a person can stop making wrong choices without God's help? Why or why not?
PRAY: Have you accepted Jesus' sacrifice as payment for your sins, asked God to forgive you, and trusted Christ to save you from sin and its punishment? If not, why not do so right now? If you've already done this, thank him for his "generous gift of forgiveness" (Romans 5:15).