This dedication to care for people in the face of danger has been common during the coronavirus pandemic. So common, it appears normal. But it’s not. In fact, the reactions we’ve seen to the coronavirus are the complete opposite of cultural attitudes toward disease and health care before Christianity began to spread around the world.
During the novel coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen doctors and nurses in hospitals worldwide selflessly put themselves in danger to care for people infected with the virus.
Like Cedar Wang, a pastor’s wife and nurse at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey. “This is why I became a nurse,” Wang said recently. “As stressed and fearful as I’ve been, I like to think I’m growing stronger and more capable at what I’m called to do.”
This dedication to care for people in the face of danger has been common during the coronavirus pandemic. So common, it appears normal. But it’s not.
In fact, the reactions we’ve seen to the coronavirus are the complete opposite of cultural attitudes toward disease and health care before Christianity began to spread around the world.
During the Roman Empire, two great plagues struck. The first, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, lasted 15 years and killed a quarter or more of the population. In response, the famous classical physician Galen fled Rome and the people in need and stayed at his country estate until the danger passed. 
The second plague arrived about a century later and, again, the non-Christian Romans made little attempt to help the sick.
“At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease,” wrote the Bishop Dionysius in a letter recorded by the Christian historian Eusebius. 
By contrast, the Christians living in the Roman Empire during the second plague nursed their own—and many of their non-Christian neighbors too. Dionysius described the response of many Christians this way:
“Most of our brothers showed unbounded love and loyalty never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead.”