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Risking All in The Third Century Plague

With the world almost coming to a standstill with the spread of the coronavirus, an example of true sacrifice comes to us from the third century: A group of Christians emerged, who seem to have been inspired by the life and reputation of Epaphroditus. Malcolm Duncan in his book Risk Takers says:

They were known as “the Parabolani” (based on the Greek word for “risking his life” in Phil. 2:30). The movement began in Carthage in AD 252 and lasted several hundred years. It was a group of people willing to “risk everything” for the sake of the Gospel.

Here's the story: Like many other places around the same time, Carthage was petrified of the plague. It wrought death and disaster when it struck and it was merciless in its sweep, claiming the lives of all who stood in its path. So, when an outbreak of the plague struck the city in AD 232, the local authorities acted swiftly and decisively. Dead bodies were disposed of and those who were suspected of having been contaminated were put outside the city walls. The impact was enormous suffering and death and disease on an epic scale. The Bishop of Carthage at the time, Cyprian, also acted swiftly. He called the church together and invited them to go and live among the sick and dying. He challenged them to give up the comfort and security of their own well-being and to step into the world of the rejected and the forgotten, Cyprian set the example of Epaphroditus as an inspiration.

The Parabolani became a movement that served the broken, the poor, the forgotten and the vulnerable. Inspired by the example of Epaphroditus, they too gave up the security of what they knew and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime as they served those whom others rejected.

Possible Preaching Angle:

In our present world situation, this is a challenge to service not fear. To selflessness instead of self-protection. From the example of Epaphroditus and ultimately Jesus Christ.

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