Coronavirus is dominating all media feeds and appropriately so with how much there currently is to report. The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared COVID-19 as a pandemic, meaning that it has spread over a large geographic area. In this case specifically, it means that COVID-19 is “prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world.”
Globally, cases have surpassed 120,000 with 60,000 patients reported to already be recovered and 4,300 deaths. The U.S. has issued a 30 day travel ban to most of Europe, excluding the U.K., beginning Friday at midnight. The NBA has “suspended” its season until further notice. Then Twitter went into a frenzy when it was reported that Tom and Rita Hanks got diagnosed in Australia. 2020 has really struggled to deliver on its promises to kick off the new decade strong.
In the midst of all the reporting, some of it accurate and some of it sensationalized, the question that is nagging me is this – how should Christians respond to COVID-19?
I want to answer that question, albeit as an amateur but hopefully thoughtful Christian, through three lenses:
- How we should think about and respond to COVID-19
- Lessons from church history
- Resources and recommendations moving forward
COVID-19 & the Christian
Instead of delving into a theological treatise, which I don’t believe would be helpful at this time, I would rather do a high level flyover of what we do believe to ground us and give us a framework for how to think about COVID-19.
God is in control (Heb. 1:3) – The Scripture says that the world is providentially being held together, sustained, upheld, preserved, supported, governed, and supplied by the powerful word of Jesus. Yes, COVID-19 is serious, but it’s not ruling and reigning, God is the one doing that.
Sickness is a result of sin from life in a corrupted world (Gen. 3) – Whenever something like this happens, it’s a given that fundamentalists will get up and say something idiotic like “it’s judgement from God.” Here’s the deal, that’s foolish and forgive me but I don’t presume upon knowing the enigmatic purpose of a virus strain. Here’s what I do know though, everything was once perfect (Gen. 1-2), sin brought in sickness, pain and death (Gen.3), then one day God will make all things new and sickness will be no more (Rev. 21).
Christians are to be people of peace in the midst of panic (Jn. 14:27) – We serve a God of peace (1 Cor. 14:33), who provides peace through the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) and provides us a peace that surpasses all understanding through prayer (Phil. 4:4-8). When the rest of the world is turning to panic, let us be a people who turn to the God of peace.
Christians are to serve the sick, not run from them (Matt. 10:8) – Jesus healed the sick (Matt. 9:35), commissioned the disciples to heal (Matt. 10:8) and we are called to pray for the sick (Js. 5:15-16). Jesus is the perfect example. He took his perfect spiritual health (sinlessness), infected himself with our sickness (sinfulness) on the cross that we might receive the cure of his perfect spiritual health.
At the same time, Christians are to be wise, not reckless (Prov. 22:3) – I read a comment that made me laugh yesterday. It said, “I believe in prayer, but I also believe in soap”. Ha! We don’t care for the sick by getting sick ourselves. We need to take all the necessary precautions to keep ourselves as healthy as we can while also not living fearfully.
A Christian’s hope is not in health, but in name of God (Ps. 20:7) – Christians don’t place their hope in the fleeting nature of health, but the unchanging nature of God. That’s why we are to build our house on rock because when the floods rise or virus spreads, our foundation will stay intact (Matt. 10:24-27).
Lessons from Church History
The history of the church is chock-full of stories where Christians ran towards serving the sick verses running from them. Rodney Stark, in his book The Rise of Christianity, writes about how Christians engaged the sick at great risk to themselves when a plague ravaged the Roman Empire in AD 251. In a letter reflecting on that time, Dionysius wrote:
“Most of our brother Christians showed unbonded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Needless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy.”
In the Fall of 1854, the Broad Street Cholera Outbreak broke out in London and the new pastor of the New Park Street Chapel had to make a decision on how he would engage it. That new pastor was Charles Spurgeon, the future Prince of Preachers, and here’s how he responded:
All day, and sometimes all night long, I went about from house to house, and. saw men and women dying, and, oh, how glad they were to see my face! When many were afraid to enter their houses lest they should catch the deadly disease, we who had no fear about such things found ourselves most gladly listened to when we spoke of Christ and of things Divine.
In Wuhan, the epicenter of COVID-19, there are stories of Chinese Christians caring for the sick, supporting medical staff and doing anything they can to serve. God’s people have always been on the frontlines caring for the sick and the most vulnerable of society, even at great risk to their own health.
Resources & Recommendations
It’s vital to seek out reliable information and not getting swept up into the media frenzy or things you see on social media. The best place to go for resources about the virus are:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- The World Health Organization (WHO)
- The New York Times and The Washington Post
In regards to preventing the illness, my best recommendation would be to read this article from the CDC. If you get sick and think it might be COVID-19, take these steps.
Christian, your charge is to not worry about what you can’t control but seek first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33-34), pray (Phil. 4:8), trust in God (Ps. 20:7) love those around you through serving them (Mk. 12:31) and to be ready to give the reason for your hope (1 Peter 3:15).
Don’t be the ones stock piling hand sanitizer and toilet paper so others won’t have it. Don’t be the ones stirring up worry through sharing false information online or being unwilling to serve others from a state of fear. Yes, I want you to be wise and discerning, but as Pastor Scott Sauls said, “You should wash your hands first, but don’t forget to wash other’s feet”. (John 13:14).