By Jon Wren
In June 1873, a cholera outbreak devastated Nashville. Despite city leaders’ attempts to downplay the severity of the situation, within three weeks all those who could afford to had left the city to escape the danger. The disease devastated those who remained, especially the city’s Black population.
While many of the city’s well-to-do residents fled to the countryside to wait out the danger, not everyone who could leave did. One of those who stayed was David Lipscomb, a local pastor. Lipscomb was horrified by the condition of his fellow citizens, White and Black, and felt compelled to help by putting his faith into action. Lipscomb volunteered to drive doctors, nurses, and relief workers to places of need with his horse and wagon. Before long, Lipscomb was joined by other members of his church who felt compelled to serve their neighbors.
Writing in the local newspaper, Lipscomb courageously called his fellow citizens to action in the name of Christ and condemned the racial prejudices of the day. He said,
It is a time that should call out the full courage and energy of the church in looking after the needy. Every individual, white or black, that dies from neglect and want of proper food and nursing, is a reproach to the professors of the Christian religion. . . .
Lipscomb’s boldness and dedication to service were a genuine outgrowth of his faith. The example of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection compelled him and others to put their faith into action on behalf of others. For them, the grace of God was not a prize to display, but a call to duty to share Christ’s love with everyone, especially those in need.
Today as we come to Communion, let’s remember that Christ’s life, death, and resurrection aren’t just facts to know and believe or a way to achieve special status, but an example of service and love to follow. Let’s resolve that compassion and service in the name of Christ won’t just be part of our heritage, but also a vital part of our future!
Jesus’ command is this: “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
Jon Wren works with the Office of Civil Rights, addressing the impact of gentrification on school desegregation. He loves history, college football, and once got a ticket for driving too slowly.