An apparent crisis can also be an opportunity for staggering self-sacrifice

(Photo: Reuters)

I'd be the first to admit it: some people can be incredibly selfish, even wicked. The current 'coronavirus' scare has exposed this sad fact all too clearly again with the UK government having to deal with the threat of someone threatening to abscond from quarantine and, I've been told, video footage has emerged showing a Chinese person deliberately smearing spittle on lift buttons. Shocking maybe, but unbelievable most definitely not given our track record as human beings.

It's not all gloom and doom however. There's a wealth of evidence to show that human beings are capable of the most incredible acts of kindness too. If you doubt that, take a look at last week's Sunday Times where Asian Correspondent Philip Sherwell said doctors in the Wuhan province are going without food and drink for up to 12 hours at a time to avoid bathroom breaks, while others "go 'naked' wearing no hazmat suits despite risking near certain infection because protective gear has run out".

As I read Sherwell's account of 'Wuhan's heroic doctors in nappies', I was reminded of the way the early church reacted to similar medical scares. Plague terrified people in the first few centuries following the birth of Christ, and that should come as no surprise because the great 'Plague of Galen', which struck the Roman Empire in the second century AD, killed between a quarter and a third of the population. A century later, some 5,000 a day were dying in Rome alone.

But far from getting away as fast as their 'little legs' or their laden ox carts could carry them, many of those who claimed to be followers of Jesus not only stayed to care for the sick, but died themselves in acts of baffling self-sacrifice.

Much has been made of the term 'radicalisation' in recent years and usually with negative connotations. But I can't help thinking that the church is meant to be radicalising people too - not in ways that prompt them to commit acts of violence, but rather in ways that inspire staggering self-sacrifice.

Now I haven't a clue if any of those medics in Wuhan are Christians, but I am sure of one thing: in risking their own health and safety, they are proving that they have been created in the image of God. Selfishness and callousness are symptoms of our fallen nature. We were not meant to live that way. Jesus has shown us that to be human is to care and that anything else is substandard.

Over the years, I have discovered that God can use all sorts of things to challenge us. Indeed He once used a donkey to get through to an obstinate man named Balaam. But that isn't the norm. He normally challenges us through other people and He is doing just that through those who give so much of themselves in the healthcare professions, both here and abroad. Let's thank God for them and for all they are doing, and let's do our best to live up to the challenge they present.

Rob James is a Baptist minister, writer and church and media consultant to the Evangelical Alliance Wales. He is the author of Little Thoughts About a Big God.