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Posted by Tyson Lemke on

The Ebola virus that has claimed hundreds of lives in Western Africa is coming to Atlanta, and today the 2nd Ebola patient is arriving from Liberia.

The two patients, that have been transported back to the States are American citizens who have served abroad as health workers/ missionaries.  Along with a bit of their backstories, basic health information on the virus and tales of the extreme precautionary measures taken by everyone involved in the transporting and treating of these two people, a question has arisen that has people talking, tweeting and even writing poems.

“Should people, infected with something that can produce “hemhorrhagic fever” (doesn’t that sound terrifying?) be brought into the United States for treatment?  Isn’t the risk that this virus could spread simply not worth the trouble of treating them here?”  

That is the question that seems to have everyone talking-  from Donald Trump to the Rev. John Piper. (I never thought I would see those two names in the same sentence.)

Not surprisingly, I have found myself readily agreeing with John Piper and many others who have pointed out that Jesus served the infirm and unlovely.  Yes, He did!  Plus, wouldn’t these people’s families want their loved ones to be cared for in their home country?  Yes!  And, aren’t these people American citizens who should get the best treatment we can provide? Yes!  Also, aren’t the health care workers and facilities in the US better equipped to care for these folks?  Yes!  Ultimately, isn’t the risk so small that it is worth it?  Yes!  I mean isn’t the very essence of the Gospel that Jesus came to people who are terminal with sin and offered His mercy and grace?  YES and YES again.  To me bringing them home just makes perfect sense, and frankly I have struggled to even understand the mindset of the people who have said, “Keep them there and good luck.”  Can you even imagine how merciless and callous someone would have to be to think that way?  These people are real people we are talking about.  It is absolutely mind-blowing, how people can be so far from understanding mercy and grace.

As I was pondering this seemingly simple question of homecoming, a far more difficult question struck me- one for which I do not have such an easy answer.  So play along and ask yourself this question.  Discuss it over dinner or in your small group.

Mentally close your eyes.

Come on… do it… mentally close your eyes.

Keep many of the variables of this situation the same: A US citizen contracts the Ebola virus in Liberia.  They will likely die in 2 weeks time if they are not treated with topnotch medical care.  Their families long for them to come home, and appeal to the president of the US to bring them to the US for treatment.  The president decides he will let the American citizens decide what to do, and he initiates an online vote to see if people think bringing them home is worth the risk.  Oh… and there is one other new variable…   Instead of an attractive, well educated doctor/ missionary, the infected person happens to be a convicted felon.  In fact, they contracted the virus in prison.  Ok, the vote is yours.  Is it worth bringing them home? Yes or no?

Ok… open your eyes.

How did you vote?

For me, it isn’t as easy of a question without the picture of the handsome bearded doctor or the missionary surrounded by happy children.  Bring home a criminal?  Give him mercy and grace?  Hmm… but a criminal… doesn’t… deserve… it.


Again, I am confronted by my shallow understanding of mercy and grace; I am confronted by the fact that I think some people deserve better than others; I am confronted by the truth that despite being no better than the basest criminal, Christ extended His love to me: a terminal man.


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