The Best Disinfectant

The Lady with the Lamp. The Mother of Nursing. The Angel of Crimea. Florence Nightingale: a Victorian-era celebrity who rose to prominence for her work as a British nurse during the Crimean War (1853-56).

During this time, being sent to a military hospital for wounds sustained in battle, no matter how minor, was almost a death sentence. If infection from a lodged ball didn’t kill you, cholera, typhoid, dysentery, sepsis, or rats from the poor condition of the hospitals would. Nightingale’s assigned task was simply to serve the wounded in Constantinople (Istanbul). Her humble and personal initiative led her to lay the groundwork for revolutionizing hospital procedures and sanitation for the rest of the world. While there, she wrote an enormous 900-page report that helped change government policy and public understanding of how things should be done in the medical field. And the reason the world took notice is that the practices she described had results. During her tenure there, she helped reduce fatalities by two-thirds, which, for 18,000 wounded troops, is many husbands, fathers, and brothers who would get to return home.

One of her major contributions was, as simple as it seems now, to open the windows. She argued that sunlight and airflow helped keep infection down. Sure enough, it does. Today, many high-end water purification systems use UV light to great success. Her report included this and in a way helped to illuminate medical leaders at the time. The idea of “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” was born.

This phrase, used in some form hereafter by Ralph Waldo Emerson and many others came to be used metaphorically as well as literally. Referring to things like infection, political corruption, crime, and sin; it could show that revealing the problem was the first step in fixing it. But like many true things, the Bible said it first. “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.” (Eph. 5:11-13). In this case, the exposing disinfectant is the Light that is Christ and His work in the transformed life (Eph. 5:7-10, John 1:4-5, 9, Rom. 13:11-14). Jesus came to heal us of our sins, so open the windows!

But remember, not everyone likes this. “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:19-21). If you’d like to be healed and get this “infection” out of your chest, be open and transparent, come to Jesus, and you’ll be on your feet and home in no time!