What was the attitude of the earliest Christians toward the sick and poor? Some people may be surprised by the findings in a new book by Oregon State University history professor Gary Ferngren. But what he discovered doesn’t surprise us at all.
Contrary to popular belief, ancient Christians didn’t just assume that everyone with a medical problem was demon-possessed or being punished for their sins. Their belief that human beings are created in the image of God led them to care for the needy within their congregations, while also reaching out to the pagan world, where the weak were more often ignored than helped.
During a horrible 3rd century plague, Christians were the only people willing to care for the dying. Ferngren writes:
…presbyters, deacons, and laymen took charge of the treatment of the sick, ignoring the danger to their own lives…. Their activity contrasted with that of the pagans, who deserted the sick or threw the bodies of the dead out into the streets….
The experience gained by the congregation-centered care of the sick over several centuries gave early Christians the ability to create rapidly in the late fourth century a network of efficiently functioning institutions that offered charitable medical care, first in monastic infirmaries and later in the hospital.
That same spirit of Christian compassion for the sick and dying continues today through many of the great programs we sponsor at Cross International. Our commitment to the Gospel is what compels us to provide free surgeries for children suffering from birth defects and disfigurements in Afghanistan, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic; and to feed children around the world who are suffering from the painful symptoms of malnutrition.
We’ve got lots of exciting opportunities for reaching out to “the least of these,” and we need your help to make it happen! Click here to learn how you can provide life-changing surgery for a disabled child.