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