By Pastor Rhoda Klein Miller
The Bible contains some of the earliest documented community health policies. In the five books of Moses, also known as the Torah and the Pentateuch, you’ll find many God-given directives for disease prevention with nutrition and sanitation, and treatment including quarantines and even mask-wearing (Leviticus 13:45)! Though it took thousands of years for medical science to explain and confirm these practices, we shouldn’t be surprised that the Designer of these bodies knew how to best protect and care for them.
The Isrealites “unclean” conditions and COVID-19 share an interesting parallel noted by professor and author Tamar Kamionkowski. Generally the consequences of both these dangers impact the community worse than the individual. Many contaminated people are resilient or asymptomatic, but failing to take exposure seriously threatens the society.
In her study of Leviticus, Kamionkowski finds no system of enforcement. Priests would teach the rules and declare people clear of defilement but many of the circumstances that led to ritual impurity could easily be kept secret. It was not fear of punishment but an ethic of community care and a desire to keep God’s presence close that motivated compliance. While other leaders have been stricter and heavy handed, Dr. Bonnie Henry has appealed to our sense of citizenship, expressing confidence British Columbians will comply for the sake of the greater good. While most of us are not at serious risk if we contract the virus it is in our best interest to guard the healthcare system and as Christians it is our duty to protect the vulnerable. Practicing personal isolation for the sake of public health is a longstanding Christian tradition.
When the bubonic plague reached Wittenburg in 1527, Reformer Martin Luther leaned on the wisdom of Leviticus stating “I will avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed lest I become a spreading agent.” Let’s all do our part to respect the latest health order and Biblical counsel, rescheduling social engagements and non-essential travel for another time.
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