How to respond to the coronavirus pandemic
Today Frank told me, “It feels like I’m in jail”. He is elderly and lives alone. But because of Government regulations, he is unable to attend the men’s social group at his local community centre. So he is now socially isolated because he has few opportunities for contact with other people.
This post is based on a message by Dave Sheath of the Lakes Church at Tuggerah in NSW Australia. It looks at how we can respond to the world-wide coronavirus pandemic.
God doesn’t want us to live in fear
They say that fear spreads from person to person faster than any virus. And panic also spreads more rapidly than any virus. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, there is panic buying at the supermarkets. This has led to shortages of essential items (like toilet paper!) and empty shelves. And people are constantly checking the news, social media and the internet for the latest on COVID-19. It seems to be never ending. And it makes us tired and worn down.
At this time there are so many fears and reasons to worry. But what if your biggest fear or worry could be taken away? The biggest fear for humanity is the fear of death. It looms over us all in the background. If we could remove the fear of death it would make an incredible difference. That’s what Jesus came to do. He came to remove the sting of death. Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn. 11:25-26NIV). As we believe in Him, even if we die we will live beyond death. Do you believe that Jesus provides security in the face of death?
Jesus wants us to have comfort in the face of sickness and suffering. And confidence in the face of death and what lies beyond death.
The Bible says “we [believers] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5). This is countercultural. It says that we can have joy amidst suffering and uncertainty. This is because we know the true God and we know His promises and His power. We can trust our lives into His care. We are not in control, but He is. It teaches us perseverance and hope and character. At such times God is building our character. So we put our faith in His promises which never fail.
God is in control
If you trust in Jesus, God loves you. And He will act in your best interests in every situation of your life. It doesn’t always feel like it. But no matter how out of control life is for us, it’s never out of God’s control. He wants us to trust Him in such circumstances.
In the face of death Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life”. He is God come amongst us, because no one else could make such a claim and be credible. In the face of the uncertainty around the coronavirus and how it forces us to face our mortality, we can feel scared and out of control. We don’t have all the answers. And we can lack self-confidence. This is a good time to investigate the claims of Jesus by saying, I am not in control of my life in the way I would like to be, but maybe Jesus is. And maybe His promises are true. It’s a time to rethink the claims of Jesus. Jesus brings real comfort in death because He is the resurrection and the life.
The resurrection of Lazarus showed that Jesus had power over death (Jn. 11:43-44). He doesn’t just heal the sick, He raises the dead. Likewise, at the rapture, believers will be resurrected to live with God in heaven.
We are living in a world gripped with fear, anxiety, insecurity and uncertainty, but Jesus has come to address our fears. To calm us in the midst of our fears. For all who trust in Him, He removes our greatest fear, the fear of death. David said, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you [God] are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4). Knowing Jesus makes all the difference to how you die. You know that you are going to a better place. You know that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. You’ll be worn down and exhausted and feel anxious and powerless by what’s on the news media and social media and it will lead to panic. You need to hear something beyond what our world is telling us. You need a word from God. We need to keep fixing our eyes on Jesus, the one who has overcome death. Let’s read the Bible daily. Keep meeting together. If it can’t be done physically, it can be done virtually by using technology like a telephone or video call. That’s how I spoke to Frank.
This is the time for Christians to shine. Jesus is the light of the world. He wants us to be a beacon of light in this dark world. Christians have always shone in a crisis. God has given us a model of selfless love in the face of our circumstances. And Jesus never panicked. History shows that the obscure marginal Jesus movement became the dominant religious force in the western world in a few centuries. It was sparked by the Christians’ response to the plagues that took place in Rome in AD165 and AD251 (Stark, 1997). Many of the wealthy Romans and the pagan priests fled from the crisis in the city. But the Christians stayed and showed compassion, love and care. And they halved the death rate. It was incredibly compelling. Their own religions didn’t offer anything in the midst of suffering and a crisis. But Christianity offered real help and real hope. Let’s ramp up kindness, compassion, generosity and love. Connect with people who are isolated. Be other-person centered in a world where people have panic, fear and crisis. Jesus has calmed our fears and given us a model of selfless-love to imitate.
Appendix: Social distancing
We hear a lot about “social distancing” today. But I think this is the wrong word. The concept behind this term is to be physically separated by a distance of at least 1.5 metres (or 6 feet). And that’s OK. But we need social connections more than ever; especially when we are physically separate. We need human relationships. So, “physical distancing” would be a better term. While we physically distance to avoid catching the coronavirus, we should remain socially connected.
Stark R, 1997, “The rise of Christianity”, Harper San Francisco.
This post is based on a message by Dave Sheath of the Lakes Church at Tuggerah in NSW Australia.
Posted, March 2020