The Doc File

The online journal of Luke Dockery

Author: Luke (page 1 of 123)

A Christian Response to COVID-19

Although it is not an official policy of mine, it is pretty rare that I write in response to major events that are going on in the world. It is not that I am unconcerned with current events, but usually, there are already a ton of voices weighing in on a given issue, I rarely feel like an expert who needs to have his opinion shared, and in general, I try to be more proactive than reactive in what I write and post.

I am not totally sure what prompts me to write in this case; certainly, there are a lot of people talking about Coronavirus already, and I am definitely no expert. Perhaps I am writing because (1) I feel a sense of uneasy concern, so the reminders I will share below are reminders that I need to hear, and (2) I took the day off of work so I could focus on watching the SEC Basketball Tournament, which has now been canceled because of COVID-19 concerns, so it is on my mind and I have a little time on my hands.

So here is the issue: we have what is now a global pandemic on our hands, which is leading to unprecedented cancellations of major events. It is quite contagious, and many times more lethal than the flu. Although many people who contract it barely suffer at all, it is particularly dangerous for those who are elderly and those who have compromised immune systems. It light of these realities, what might be a “Christian response” to Coronavirus?

Here are a few ideas, all taken from the Sermon on the Mount.

Christians are not to live in fear.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

(Matthew 6.25-34)

There is a lot of fear and anxiety in the world right now. Plans are being upset and lives are being unsettled. A lot of recreational events that normally help to distract us from the concerns of life are being canceled, which seems to magnify the problem. It is easy to be afraid.

But it is inherently un-Christian to live lives that are driven by fear. We are not called to be people of fear, but people of boldness who absolutely rely on our Heavenly Father to protect us.

Currently, there is cause for concern and a need for wisdom and discernment in what we do. But we should not be alarmists or fearmongers.



Christians are to value truth.

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”

(Matthew 5.33-37)

This one should be pretty obvious; we know that we are supposed to be people of truth. Jesus was full of grace and truth, and in the Sermon on the Mount, He taught His followers that they should be people of such absolute integrity that it wouldn’t be necessary for them to take elaborate oaths because others implicitly trusted them.

Christians should value truth at all times, but perhaps especially so in times of fear and uncertainty. Part of that means that we should be careful about what sort of information we share online. I have seen multiple people (some of them preachers no less!) share disdain for the “hysteria” surrounding Coronavirus saying it is nowhere near as deadly as the common flu. Although COVID-19 is not nearly as widespread as the common flu (currently), it is far more lethal to those who contract it—that is a statistical reality. We need to be very careful about the information we share, and make sure to verify that it is accurate.

Related to the point above, it seems to me that a remarkable number of my online friends and acquaintances have suddenly become amateur epidemiologists, and speak with a great deal of certainty that is probably unwarranted. Part of being truthful is not giving the impression that we know more than we do; I am the first to admit that I am not the most informed about what is going on. I want to be careful about who I listen to, careful about what I share with others, and careful that I do not give the impression that I am an expert. I want to value truth.

Christians are to love their neighbors.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

(Matthew 5.43-48)

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

(Matthew 7.12)

A common response I have seen from many people, a lot of them Christians, is something like, “What’s the big deal? Maybe I’ll get the virus, and if I do, I’ll probably recover. And even if it kills me, as a Christian, I don’t fear death. I’m  not going to change what I do just because of this virus.”

There’s some truth to that, and it would be a great perspective…if we all lived on islands by ourselves. The reality is that whether or not you are concerned about catching the disease yourself (and personally, I am not), you should be concerned about the possibility of spreading the disease to others, especially those who are less able to fight it off, and those who may not share the same Christian hope of conquering death that you do. Loving our neighbors means that we want to go to reasonable measures to keep them safe from the spread of illness.

Also, loving others means that hoarding supplies probably isn’t the most Christian thing you can do either. Sure, it is important that you have enough to provide for your family, but a Christian response to possessions—at any time—is that we should be prepared to share whatever we have with others (so if you have 300 rolls of toilet paper stocked up, you might want to keep an eye out for people lamenting that they can’t find any and help them out!).

Christians are to pray.

Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
(Matthew 6.9-13)

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

(Matthew 7.7-11)

Prayer should always be at the forefront of how Christians respond to…anything. We should pray for those in positions of authority who are making decisions about how best to proceed while limiting the spread of the virus. We should pray for those suffering from financial fallout from the effects of travel being limited and events being canceled. We should pray for those who are sick. We should pray for those treating and caring for them. We should pray for those working for vaccines and anti-viral drugs. We should pray for those who have lost loved ones. We should pray for those dealing with the difficulties of quarantine. And as Jesus reminds us, we should pray with fervency and perseverance.

Prayer reminds us of our own limitations and is an acknowledgment of our unlimited God. Prayer leads us to trust instead of fear. Prayer makes us mindful of others rather than just ourselves.

Conclusion: Christians are to let their lights shine.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

(Matthew 5.14-16)

Jesus says that His followers are like a city set on a hill—incredibly visible to the world around us. The reality is that people in the world see how Christians behave, and they are paying attention. Perhaps this is especially true in times of uncertainty. When we fail to live as we are called to, it is incredibly damaging to the cause of Christ. But when we live according to the commands of our King, others see that and are brought to give glory to God:

  • In a world filled with fear, Christians are called to rely on our Heavenly Father.
  • In a world filled with misinformation, political posturing, conspiracy theories, and hysteria, Christians are called to value truth.
  • In a world filled with shortsighted self-interest, Christians are called to love others.
  • In a world filled with uncertainty of what to do, Christians are called to pray.

May we seek to live as Jesus calls us to, and in so doing, to bring glory to God our Father!

Counter Culture: A Study of the Sermon on the Mount

Purchase the Book

Paperback: Directly from me $10; Amazon $11.99

Digital: Deeper Youth Ministry $10

Despite being one of the most beloved sections in all of Scripture, the Sermon on the Mount is also one of the most neglected and ignored sections, because in it, Jesus calls His disciples to live in ways that are completely at odds with the way the world operates.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus lays out a vision for how His followers should live and what life in His Kingdom is all about. Counter Culture makes Jesus’ Kingdom vision accessible to students—explaining the historical context and applying the teaching to modern-day life—while in no way minimizing the challenge that Jesus gives.

Although this book was written specifically as an aid to teaching the Sermon on the Mount to junior high and high school students, it is also useful for personal Bible study, and the depth of the material makes it a great resource for adult Bible classes.

Mocking Jesus

In Mark 15, in the narrative of the crucifixion of Christ, there is the following description of the Roman soldiers mocking Jesus:

And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

(Mark 15.16-20)

When I read these words and let my imagination drift back to that scene, one clear emotion springs to the surface of my thoughts: anger! I am outraged at the way my Savior is openly mocked by sinners for whom He is about to die! How dare these lowly soldiers make fun of God’s Son and spit in the face of the Creator of the universe? If they had any idea Who this was they were dealing with, surely they would not treat Him with such contempt!

But then, I begin to wonder…

The favorite title for Jesus in the early church was Lord (2 Corinthians 4.5). This was a title of ownership. The master of a slave or the owner of a vineyard was called Lord. It was also a title of authority. Army commanders and judges were called Lord. It was the official title of the Roman Emperor. All laws, edicts, and decrees were signed Lord Caesar.

Out of this background, we begin to understand what early Christians were saying when they spoke of Jesus as Lord. They meant that He was the absolute owner of their lives: He was the One who had the right to decide what they would be, what they would do, and where they would go. They meant that He was the final authority over every thought, emotion, and action of life. Above all, they meant that He was the King of Kings to whom they gave their highest loyalty and obedience.

That is what it means to call Jesus Lord.

Returning to the story from Mark 15, I am outraged when I read of these soldiers openly mocking Jesus. But then I wonder: do we mock Jesus any less than the Roman soldiers did when we call Him Lord but then comfortably ignore any demands He makes of our lives?

Jesus: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6.46)

Christianity As Invasion

I first read C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity back in 2008, and I really liked it. That has been over a decade ago now, and a lot of things have changed since then. In 2008, I was a fairly recent college graduate, was also still pretty new in youth ministry, and I hadn’t started grad school yet. I had been married for a couple of years, but was not yet a father.

So it had been a long time, and I have changed in significant ways, and I thought it would be good for me to read this classic again. I started it again last week,[1] and I am absolutely blown away with how much I am loving it this time around (I don’t remember liking it this much the first time I read it. Of the many parts that I have loved (maybe I’ll do a full review later), one has been Lewis’s description of Christianity as opposed to Dualism (emphasis added by me):

One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe—a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin. The difference is that Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.

Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: this is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery.

Mere Christianity, 45-46

I think this is a really helpful and accurate image. Scripture is clear that we are at war—not against flesh and blood, but against evil spiritual forces. As Christians, we establish beachheads on hostile coastlines and expand into the territory of the Enemy, holding the banner of our King.


[1] This time, I am actually “reading” it as an audiobook, and it is read by a British guy. This is outstanding.

Are You Like Jesus’ Enemies?

If you are familiar at all with the life and ministry of Jesus, you know that He encountered opposition from various groups. In Mark’s gospel, the controversy surrounding the ministry of Jesus begins very early. In chapter 2, Jesus is criticized in the following circumstances:

  • In 2.1-12, Jesus receives criticism from some scribes when He forgives the sins of a paralyzed man after healing Him.
  • In 2.13-17, the “scribes of the Pharisees” criticize Jesus for having table fellowship with tax collectors and sinners. This occurs after Jesus calls Levi/Matthew to follow Him and then goes to eat at his house.
  • In 2.18-22, Jesus seems to receive a mild criticism because He and His disciples are not fasting, while John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees do.
  • In 2.23-28, the Pharisees again criticize Jesus, this time because His disciples were plucking heads of grain on the Sabbath day.

These events provide the immediate context for Mark 3.1-6, which is the passage that I want to look at a little more closely:

“Again He entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And He looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against Him, how to destroy Him.”

Although there are several aspects of this account that we could focus on, I particularly want to look at a couple of characteristics of Jesus’ enemies, characteristics that I think a lot of people—even those who are supposed to live as citizens of God’s kingdom—continue to exhibit today.

First, watching people and waiting for them to mess up is a characteristic of Jesus’ enemies. The text says in verse Mark 3.2 that the Pharisees “watched Jesus, to see whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.”

The Pharisees watched Jesus carefully, not to glean wisdom from His teaching, or to be awed by the miracles He performed, or touched by the compassion He showed, but to catch Him in some alleged mistake that would provide grounds for accusation.

Unfortunately, I have known people like that…

  • People who miss the main thrust of a 30-minute sermon because they focused in on one statement that they disagreed with or one Bible verse that was incorrectly cited.
  • People who come to Bible class not to learn or to grow as a part of the body or to be transformed by Scripture, but instead to correct the teacher every time they hear something they disagree with.
  • People who ignore the constant, tireless, loving care of the shepherds of their congregation and instead look for missteps or questionable decisions so they can loudly voice their criticism.

Watching people just so we can catch them doing something we don’t like in order to criticize them is not a characteristic of Jesus, nor of those who would be His followers. It is a graceless way of approaching life, where we feel justified in neglecting all of the good things a person does in order to focus in on their faults. It is what the enemies of Jesus did.

Second, making immediate plans to punish or pronounce judgment upon others is a characteristic of Jesus’ enemies. Mark 3.6 states that “the Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against Him, how to destroy Him.”

If you are very familiar with the Gospel of Mark, you know that “immediately” is a key word. Mark is a gospel of action, and people are portrayed as quickly moving from one thing to another. In this instance, the clear implication is that the Pharisees take no time to absorb what Jesus is trying to teach; rather, without reflection, they rush headlong into a meeting with another group that is opposed to Jesus to begin making plans on how to bring Him down.

Although we should not be waiting and watching for people to mess up (see above), the reality is that people will mess up from time to time, or they might say something that we disagree with. When that occurs, the solution is not to go flying off the handle, enslaved to the demands of our emotional responses in the moment. Sure, there are times when someone says or does something that is so incorrect or inappropriate that it must be dealt with immediately, but not everything is a big deal.

A better course of action is to address the situation after our emotions have cooled and after we have had time for reflection, study, and prayer. And when we do that, many times we realize that it wasn’t such a big deal after all.

Without a doubt, our 24-hour news cycle-documented and social media-dominated society provides an environment where people can always be looking for the mistakes of others and can immediately condemn them. On top of that, it is an election season, which always seems to reveal that many of us think we can respond to political figures however we want to regardless of the fact that we claim to be disciples of Jesus, and that claim should have a major impact on our behavior. But let us be aware that when we take part in those practices, we look more like the enemies of Jesus than we do our Savior.

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