ROCHESTER, Minn. — Martin Luther, architect of the Protestant Reformation, wrote prodigiously.
So it’s not surprising that following the arrival in 1527 of the Black Death in his home town of Wittenburg, Germany, he took down his thoughts on the Christian ethics of actions and choices during a pandemic.
The full text can be found at Christianity Today. Here are some excerpts.
On the need to stay healthy in order to protect others:
“Others sin on the right hand. They are much too rash and reckless, tempting God and disregarding everything which might counteract death and the plague. They disdain the use of medicines; they do not avoid places and persons infected by the plague, but lightheartedly make sport of it and wish to prove how independent they are. They say that it is God’s punishment; if he wants to protect them he can do so without medicines or our carefulness.”
On the idea that a pandemic is God’s will, so you might as well live your life:
“This is not trusting God but tempting him. God has created medicines and provided us with intelligence to guard and take good care of the body so that we can live in good health …. It is even more shameful for a person to pay no heed to his own body and to fail to protect it against the plague the best he is able, and then to infect and poison others who might have remained alive if he had taken care of his body as he should have …. act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body?”
On the idea that one must privilege property over the lives others:
“A man who will not help or support others unless he can do so without affecting his safety or his property will never help his neighbor. He will always reckon with the possibility that doing so will bring some disadvantage and damage, danger and loss. No neighbor can live alongside another without risk to his safety, property, wife, or child. He must run the risk that fire or some other accident will start in the neighbor’s house and destroy him bodily or deprive him of his goods, wife, children, and all he has.”