On the one hand, I hesitate to write yet another article about COVID-19 because our lives are consumed by it. You can't turn on your television, scroll a Twitter feed, talk to a friend, or peruse Facebook without 99% of the content being consumed by talk of viruses, symptoms, quarantines, and social distancing. Believing firmly that sanity and good mental health demand that we all step away from the 24-hour news cycle, I don't really want to add to the over-saturation of the market.
Still, it's precisely because the world is talking so much about this that I think it's crucial that Christians be grounded in truth and interpret everything through the lens of what God has already told us. It isn't wise of us to be hearing only the panicked voice of the world, nervously speculating about worst case scenarios:
- Mass death!
- Horrific lung scans of victims!
- Markets are cratering!
- Unemployment will reach 20%!
- Quarantines to last through summer!
Doing so appeals to our flesh-centered human instinct to worry and yield our hearts to unproductive fears and anxieties that cripple our ability to distinguish ourselves as blood-bought believers who are reminded to offer up prayers and supplications with thanksgiving, free of anxiousness regardless of our situation.
The truth is that the world never offers a reliable or trustworthy foundation upon which to build our hope. Markets are always susceptible, wealth is always fleeting, flesh is always vulnerable, and intellect is always fallible. But in times of prosperity, man often ignores those uncomfortable realities because he can. Even if unspoken, a dangerous hedonism is always lying just under the surface of our human experience: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!
But when the tempests of life arrive, the relentless torrents of those storms erode the shifting sands upon which our lives have been precariously constructed. Man finds himself scared, isolated, and confronting the starkness of his own mortality.
Four weeks ago, it seemed to most Americans that things were well under control. We were healthy, wealthy, planning spring break vacations, working good jobs while envisioning opportunities for growth, considering building additions to our home, spending on frivolous wants.
Then — and consider how astounding this is — a microscopic virus escapes from China and it precipitates the shutdown of the entire world. That's how helpless we humans really are. We aren't invincible, we aren't impervious, we aren't God.
But for Christians, John reminds us that though we aren't God, we are God's. He has adopted us into His family, and thus the One with power over galaxies and planets, no less viruses and plagues, holds us, sustains us, and provides for us.
That alone should prompt us to see this moment as the Church of Jesus has seen plagues and pestilence in previous ages: an opportunity to grow the Kingdom of God by teaching of a peace that passes all understanding. How do we do that?
First, let's commit to prayer. Prayer is where it always starts for faithful, world-changing believers. As stressful as this pandemic may be for us, imagine the weight of responsibility being felt by leaders who are being forced to make decisions that are guaranteed to risk lives or livelihoods no matter what they choose. This isn't to be political or ideological for us; it's a biblical command. And let's also remember those who are infected and affected by this difficult situation.
Second, may we care for one another within the church as well as offering assistance to our fellow man. Glen Scrivener writes,
Plagues intensify our own sense of mortality and frailty. They also provide an incredible opportunity for the church to display countercultural, counterconditional love.
Our medical understanding of epidemiology teaches us that loving another has a bit different meaning in our era. Caretakers can be carriers of viruses and diseases, meaning the most loving thing we can do is socially distance. But even if we are physically isolated, we should still move towards those in need. We call and actually talk, we text and commiserate, we shop for someone who is at high risk, we order carry-out or go through a drive-thru to help struggling business owners and their employees, we add an extra tip in Jesus' name.
Finally, we testify. We preach Christ as the only solid foundation of hope – in this world, and the next. Man-made security is but an illusion, and if the last few weeks haven't shaken our collective pride to the point of admitting that, I tremble to think what it might take.
What man needs is an assurance that there exists a hope that, "trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword" cannot extinguish.
We Christians know it exists in Christ alone. Now, more than ever, is the time to spread the word.