Recently the World Health Organization reclassified the coronavirus epidemic as a worldwide pandemic. Currently, there are something like 130,000 reported cases (the number of unreported cases is considered drastically higher) with around 4,800 reported deaths (again, the unreported number must be higher). That’s nearing a 4% death rate for those infected. These numbers will climb.
Side note: If this virus spreads unchecked through the States and say fifty percent of people were infected, we’d be looking at multiple millions of deaths at the current rate.
International markets are responding with extreme volatility. Values are plummeting. Prices for commodity items are rocketing. Store shelves are emptying.
Governments are responding with stimulus packages in an effort to avoid financial collapse. However, this is hamstrung by bans placed on international travel and imports and exports. One by one, governments are locking down their borders to keep the pandemic from worsening.
With the rise of infected people, hospitals are overrun. Local jurisdictions and national governments are scurrying to build new facilities to deal with the huge influx of cases. However, even with new buildings, they cannot train new doctors and nurses overnight to staff them. Sadly, many of the patients they are seeing are ones who are simply scared, not actually sick people; nevertheless, they are overrun.
How do these reports make you feel? What is your reaction? More importantly, what should your response be?
Many people are reacting in panic, stripping stores of essential items and hoarding them at home to avoid exposure. People are scared to die, and rightly so, considering how many people in the world do not know Jesus.
These fearful people do not surprise me. I feel deep pity for them. How horrible it must be to face such terrifying reports without any hope for today or any promise beyond death!
There is another group of people that make me shake my head. They are the scoffers, and they are everywhere. They mock the very idea of an epidemic or a pandemic. They mock those who are scared. They mock the governments who are responding with emergency measures.
They quote statistics that they’ve found from their pet sources–completely disregarding information by leading scientists, doctors, and other professionals–statistics that support their views, that prove this coronavirus news is nothing by hype and buzz.
After all, haven’t more people died from the common flu? Don’t more people die from automobile accidents? Or from snake bites? And so on their arguments go.
I am not shocked by scoffers. Jesus himself said that scoffers will be a sign of the end times and the fact that they will grow worse and worse. (Jesus must have known how easy social media in the age of internet would have made scoffing.)
What I am shocked by is how many professing Christians are taking up scoffing. What is even more shocking to me is how many Anabaptist Christians have made scoffing their vocation. (I know not all of my readers are Anabaptists, but my Christian discipline follows the tenets of Anabaptism.)
To answer the question of what our response should be to this pandemic, I will try to draw from principles the Bible teaches us, principles Christians everywhere should be following, principles Anabaptists have taken as our watchword.
Point 1: God is in control.
God is sovereign. Nothing takes Him by surprise. In fact, He uses the forces of nature and the responses of humans for His own purposes, orchestrating time to bring about His will. God allows only what brings about His plans. And yes, suffering is part of that. See Point 5.
Those who know God as their Father realize great comfort in His sovereignty, His omnipotence, His omniscience. We know His standards. We understand His character. We are safe in His love.
We also recognize that God is deserving of all glory and honor. It is within His right to arrange events on earth to cause men to consider Him. Sadly, suffering is often the greatest motivator to waking men up to the realization of God.
Read: Job 12:7-10; Proverbs 21:1; Daniel 4:35; Isaiah 45:7-9, 46:9-10; Romans 8:28-39; Revelation 4:11
Point 2: Do not fear.
Fear is of the devil. Fear is destructive. We don’t know how this pandemic will turn out. Hopefully, the precautions those with knowledge are taking will help to curb it so that the thousands of deaths don’t become millions. However, it is safe to say that the greater danger, far greater than a virus you cannot prepare for, is fear.
The irrational reactions we see stripping stores supplies and causing unnecessary shortages, stealing medical supplies from hospitals and exposing medical personnel to greater risk, hoarding investments and plummeting national markets–these fears will cause far more damage than the virus itself.
Fear is not of God. Perfect love for God casts fear out of our lives completely. Fear has torment, but love for God and love for others brings deep, lasting peace.
Read: Psalm 23, 34:7; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 6:25-34; John 4:18, 14:27; Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Peter 5:6-7
Point 3: Respect those in authority over you.
Those who claim the name of Christ should never be found scoffing those in authority. Shame on you, brother, if you have in any way mocked the government, the medical institutions, or other professionals responsible for the welfare of nations.
Pride is the base nature of man. Pride and unbelief are the most commonly cited sins in the Bible. They will be the bar that keep many out of heaven. It is a common response for us to think, Hah! I know better. Those dumb-dumb leaders who are spreading hype about this thing just can’t see what I can see. You may not say it in those words, but you are still saying it.
You should feel ashamed even entertaining such thoughts, but to voice criticism against the powers that be is a worse shame. To undermine those in authority, whether they are right or wrong, it to disobey the Lord Jesus.
Read: Mark 12:17; Romans 13; Titus 3:1-9; 1 Peter 2:11-18, 5:5-8
Point 4: Let your words be few.
In a time where social media and internet have given everyone a platform from which to blast their ideas (Behold, I have a blog!), it is increasingly easier to spout off unfiltered words.
Words can get us into trouble. God says that our words reveal our hearts. Wrong words always lead back to a wrong heart. By our words we will be either justified or condemned.
Thus, many times we are admonished in the Bible to let our words be few. For in the multitude of words, there is no lack of sin. We are not called upon to comment on every social movement, nor are we called upon to be silent at all times. All of our words must pass through the filter of the Holy Spirit; see Philippians 4:8 for an excellent summary of that criteria.
The true believer knows his calling is to use his words to spread the good news of Jesus. More on that in Point 6.
Read Psalm 1; Proverbs 10:19, 17:28; Ecclesiastes 5:2; Matthew 12:36; Philippians 4:5-8; James 1:19, 3:1-18; 2 Timothy 2:14-16
Point 5: Know that trouble will come.
In our age of enlightenment, scientific breakthroughs, global travel and communication, medical marvels, and so on, man is finding it easier and easier to assume he has the world by the tail.
Pandemics that sweep the globe and kill off huge portions of the population? Pffft! That was for the idiots of the dark ages. Never mind that the Spanish Flu infected one-third of the world’s population in the early 1900’s.
We may be smart, but a micro-organism can kill a person today just like it could any time in history. We are not invincible, not even close. Your body will die. You will suffer. Jesus promised it, even to God’s own children.
Be prepared for it. The coronavirus is here. It’s real. Considering the global saturation, it is likely not long before someone in your life–or perhaps you yourself–are affected by the disease. Bad things happen in a fallen, broken world.
Read: Matthew 24:3-14; John 16:33; Romans 5:3-5; 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Point 6: Consider the times and be motivated to act accordingly.
There are two aspects to this point. One is more high-level, the other more accessible. Both are practical.
First, understand that the world is coming to an end. Time will be over someday. Jesus is coming back to judge the earth. Some signs we are to watch for are increased natural disasters (floods, earthquakes, storms, fires), diseases that affect the world (you all know the list in the past few decades), wars and fears of wars, and scoffers, to name a few.
Anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear knows that things are worsening. We do not know when, but time will be up. Believers, wake up! Let us not be found in the seat of the scornful. We have work to do.
Second, knowing our time is short, we should be motivated more than ever to share the good news of Jesus. Every Christian is tasked with the Great Commission: To share the gospel message with others.
There are millions of fearful, dying people out there. Are you motivated to rescue them? to pull them out of the fire? Or are you too busy posting your criticisms of how COVID-19 is being handled?
The two commands from God on which everything else hangs are as follows: 1) Love God with all your being. 2) Love others as much as you love yourself. Are you living that love?
Read: Malachi 4:1-3; Matthew 24:36-44, 28:18-20; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10; 2 Peter 3
Point 7: Keep yourself unspotted from the world.
The Apostle John wrote to us that it was the last times around two thousand years ago. We are warned in Scripture that the Lord’s delay in coming will cause many to grow lax. They will scoff at His ever coming, not recognizing His mercy in giving many an opportunity to find Him.
Dear ones, we are not part of this world. We are not taken up with its governments, its policies, its systems. We are not trapped by its fears, not its pleasures, nor its scoffing. We are pilgrims and strangers here, ambassadors of our heavenly King.
Don’t get caught up in these things. Set your affections on things above. Be busy about the Father’s business. Use your words for good. Sow peace in the lives of others by living a peaceful life yourself. Don’t be worried about anything, but in everything give thanks to God.
There’s a hurting world out there. You hold the key to their salvation. What are you doing about it?
Read: Matthew 5:13-16; John 17:14-16, 18:36; Romans 12:1-3; Ephesians 6:10-18; Philippians 3:17-21; James 1:26-27; 1 John 2:15-17; 1 Peter 2:11-12