For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor de- mons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Great Plague was London’s last major outbreak of bubonic plague, but it claimed as many as 100,000 lives from 1665 to 1666. It spread to the Derbyshire village of Eyam, about 160 miles north of London, in a bale of cloth infested with carrier fleas. Forty-two villagers died in September and October. The plague had been killing millions of Europeans for centuries. These villagers didn’t understand all of the science, but they knew the plague spread from person to person. By spring, the remaining citizens prepared to flee their homes to survive.
But the newly appointed rector, William Mompesson, with the help of the trusted former rector, Thomas Stanley, convinced the villagers to remain and quarantine them- selves in their village. By staying, they knew they were choosing death, but they knew they would also avoid spreading the plague to other villages. They chose to protect the lives of others beyond their own boundaries. Death hit Eyam hard, killing 260 of its 300- 800 inhabitants in a year. “It must have been terrifying, but every single family would have had that strong belief in God, and would not have feared death,” Joan Plant, Eyam churchwarden and direct descendant of one of the survivors, told the BBC.
The citizens of Eyam must have clung to the truth of Paul’s words, that nothing in all the universe or eternity can separate us from God’s love, not even death. Despite suffering and grief, they chose to love and protect their neighbors in nearby villages even more than themselves. They knew they were held firmly in the embrace of God’s love no matter what.
What feels like it is separating you from the love of God? If there is truly nothing that will break the bonds of God’s love for you, what courageous step will you take?