Dr. Rex M. Rogers
Martin Luther was one of the greatest Christian reformers, the man who in 1517 called the Roman Catholic Church to account by posting "95 Theses" on Wittenberg All Saints Church door.
But enormously important as this is, though, Luther should also be remembered for his actions and thoughtful response to the dreadful Black Plague – and what his wisdom suggests for us today in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the 1300s, the Black Death, also called the Bubonic Plague, swept across two continents, eventually killing half the population of Europe in a short span of four years. Between 75 and 200 million people died and it took nearly two hundred years for the population to return to former levels.
During the 15th and 16th Centuries, various epidemics took more lives in the known populated world. And worse, the Black Death proved episodic, meaning it would die off only to resurge later.
In 1527, the plague came again, visiting Martin Luther's hometown, Wittenberg, Germany. Luther was instructed to leave by his university elector, but he stayed to minister to the sick. Days later, several around Luther had died, while his pregnant wife and others in his household became ill. Thankfully, they survived, as did Luther, but he was asked, even challenged, about the decision he made not to leave ahead of the epidemic.