We’ve gotten some questions about the Coronavirus and how we should respond as Christians. As cases have now topped 100,000 world wide with 3,500 confirmed fatalities, there is a lot of concern.
The first way we should always respond as Christians is by opening our Bibles. God’s word is meant to be the anchor that steadies us and keeps us from flying out into the sea of fear. As God’s people we should be responding differently than those around us, not because we are better, but because we have God to guide us through this.
Here are a few things that God would speak to us:
1. We need to trust in who God is, not fear of what could be
At the end of the book of Hebrews after the author gets done explaining how Jesus is our great high priest who makes a way for us to come before God clothed in His righteous robes, one of the ways he concludes is by writing,
we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Heb 13:6 ESV)
Keep in mind that he is writing this to first century Christians who were being actively persecuted for their faith. What man could do to them was obvious. Man could kill them. But his point is that if the Lord is for them, then even if man does their worst, that will only serve to fulfill God’s purposes and deliver His people into His loving arms.
That doesn’t mean we should throw caution to the wind. I just got back from doing ministry down in Florida and you better believe I wiped down my airplane seat with multiple antibacterial wipes. But then as I settled into my seat, my trust was not ultimately in taking precautions. It was in the God who promises to always be my helper and there is nothing that can happen on this earth that is not ordained by him. There is nothing that man (or a virus) can do to me, that God doesn’t will.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. (Psa 91:1-7 ESV)
This does not mean that nothing bad will ever happen to us, but that nothing can happen to us apart from God. We are living in his shelter. Let’s trust him.
2. We need to understand where this virus comes from and lament over it
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (Rom 8:20-22 ESV)
When Adam sinned not only was humankind cursed, but so was all of creation. This world is a broken place. It is in bondage and is groaning waiting to be delivered from this evil age. So when we experience things like the Coronavirus, or tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, and a whole host of other “natural” disasters we have to understand that there is nothing “natural” about these things at all. They come from the curse of sin that has infected this world. And so things like the Coronavirus are fresh reminders that our world is currently a broken place and this should cause us to feel grief. Jesus wept over what he saw in the world. We should weep too. Especially for those places who are drastically affected like Wuhan, Iran and Italy.
3. We should seek to practice wisdom
The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. (Pro 22:3 ESV)
The full extent of this outbreak is not yet known. Until we have a better idea of what is happening here are some suggestions from an elder at 10th Presbyterian church who is also a doctor at Penn. First, he advises people to stay home from worship services when ill with fever or when experiencing respiratory symptoms (cough, congestion, shortness of breath). Second, we should wash our hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating, after going to the bathroom, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water is not easily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Cleaning the environment around us is also important. We should regularly clean high touch areas in our church and home, such as tabletops, light switches, and doorknobs. Third, we should take extra effort to cover our mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If a tissue isn’t easily available, use your elbow to cover your face rather than your hands. Along the same lines, we should generally avoid touching our eyes, nose or mouth to prevent any germs on our hands from getting into our body. Fourth, we should avoid close contact with people who are ill where this is reasonable. This is not simply to protect us from illness, but to protect our loved ones who come in contact with us regularly. Conversely, we should keep our distance from others when we are sick to prevent them from becoming ill. Fifth, prepare your household by planning for ways to care for those who might become sick, especially those at higher risk for complications (i.e., elderly), and for emergency operations/closures at your work or children’s school. (cited https://www.tenth.org/resource-library/tenth-presses/thoughts-on-corona-virus)
4. We should let this be a fresh reminder of urgency of repentance
If you remember back to a few weeks ago when we went through Luke 13:1-9, we saw Jesus responding to some tragedies that had happened recently. Pilate had slaughtered worshipers in the temple and the tower in Siloam had collapsed and killed eighteen bystanders. And the crowds want to know from Jesus, what should we think about this?
Here’s Jesus’s answer in Luke 13:4–5: “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent [ you will all likewise perish.”
It might sound harsh to say this at this moment of history, but this world is a cursed place and it is one day going to be destroyed by Christ. If Christ, the most loving person who ever existed, did not shy away from using tragedy to talk about repentance, then neither should we. All natural disasters that happen now are just a foreshadowing of the day to come when this earth will be destroyed once and for all. Therefore, things like the Coronavirus should be a wake up call to those of us who have gotten too comfortable in this world. This is a reminder that we need to repent and turn to God and realign our lives to the worship of His great worth.
5. We should live with hope in Christ and boldly share that hope with others
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith– more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire– may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.(1Pe 1:3-7 ESV)
Peter tells his church about the glories that they have waiting for them in heaven with Christ. He then validates that there is grief in trials on earth, but that grief does not take away from faith. Going through hard things actually refines our faith, so that it might become more pure and more pleasing to God.
So as Christians we should live with this great hope and let it strengthen our faith. This hope should give us peace and surety, even with the uncertainty of this virus. Our hope is not in living a virus free life. Our hope is in the imperishable inheritance of heaven and to that inheritance we look to with faith. And this hope we have should have such a steadying effect on us that others want to know the reason for the hope we have as Peter goes on to write in chapter 3
always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; (1Pe 3:15 ESV)
Peter assumes that if his church is living with hope in Christ, then there are going to be people asking for a reason for that hope. I pray that this is what our neighbors encounter with us. I pray that they would not see us being just as afraid as they are, but that we would have a sure hope in the certain future of heaven that they would ask us for reasons for our hope.
In 1854 there was a cholera outbreak in London. The death toll went into the tens of thousands, far more than the Coronavirus. Here is a section from Charles Spurgeon’s biography that outlines how he led his church through that time.
Spurgeon and his deacons continued to receive new members, pursue inactive members, observe the Lord’s Supper, and practice all the other normal activities of a church. Not only that, but in retrospect, it was particularly during this time, when news of death raged all around the city, that Spurgeon found Londoners most receptive to the gospel. He writes, “If there ever be a time when the mind is sensitive, it is when death is abroad. I recollect, when first I came to London, how anxiously people listened to the gospel, for the cholera was raging terribly. There was little scoffing then.” In other words, not only did Spurgeon gather his church amid the outbreak, but he saw in these gatherings a powerful opportunity for the gospel and proclaimed the gospel boldly.
This is from a sermon that Spurgeon preached to his church during this time,
Now is the time for all of you who love souls. You may see men more alarmed than they are already; and if they should be, mind that you avail yourselves of the opportunity of doing them good. You have the Balm of Gilead; when their wounds smart, pour it in. You know of Him who died to save; tell them of Him. Lift high the cross before their eyes. Tell them that God became man that man might be lifted to God. Tell them of Calvary, and its groans, and cries, and sweat of blood. Tell them of Jesus hanging on the cross to save sinners. Tell them that — “There is life for a look at the Crucified One.” Tell them that He is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by Him. Tell them that He is able to save even at the eleventh hour, and to say to the dying thief, “today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.”
This is how we respond, Christ Church. We put our faith in Christ and proclaim his glorious Gospel. May Jesus always find us faithfully doing so.
-Pastors Matt, Steve and Jeff