Some brief thoughts on the current pandemic sweeping across the world. How should a Christian respond?
I think it is obvious from scripture that as Christians we are not to live in fear for a number of reasons. First, because we know that our Good Father is sovereign over everything. Isaiah 46:9-10 says, “Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’”
Second, because the God who controls everything, including the RNA of the Coronavirus is a good, loving Father. Psalm 103:13 says, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
Third, because we know that death is actually gain. The biggest fear many have during this time is that we may get the virus and die. But we must remember what Paul says in Philippians 1:21-23: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” Combine this with the facts from above that even if we should die the Lord will lovingly provide for those we leave behind. Therefore, we cannot and should not fear.
But I have found a different problem among Christians today. We don’t want to be fearful because we know that would show a lack of trust in God, we instead swing far to the other end of the pendulum to flippancy. What do I mean by a flippant response? Basically someone who says things like, “Well if God is sovereign then I am going to ignore my doctors orders to stay inside and go party.” Or people who think, “God is in control so I don’t really need to be that careful.”
This attitude may appear to be very spiritual, but does it match up with God’s Word? Just because God is in control it doesn’t mean we throw caution to the wind. In Mathew 10:16, Jesus commands us, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Living your life unchanged from how you did before the coronavirus hit is not being as wise as serpents. And it’s also not being as innocent as doves either. You may actually further the spread and infect others who may have more severe symptoms and may perish apart from knowing Christ, (see an example here https://nypost.com/2020/03/13/rudy-gobert-in-trouble-with-jazz-teammates-over-coronavirus-spread/).
And even logically this makes no sense. God’s sovereignty is not to be used as an excuse for our lack of caution. Do you have health insurance, home insurance, life insurance or even savings in your bank? Then isn’t this also proof that we can still believe in God’s sovereignty and yet use caution? Do you wear a seatbelt when driving on the highway? God is sovereign over you and other drivers, yet we still use caution because to do otherwise is foolish and putting God to the test, (see Deuteronomy 6:16 and Luke 4:12).
Instead of being fearful or flippant, what if we loved those around us? What if we understood Jesus command in Mathew 22:37-40: “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
What does this look like? It means trying to stop the spread of the virus by actually listening to the guidelines for social distancing in order to protect those most vulnerable to it. It may mean offering to pick up groceries for an older couple down the street so they can stay inside. Or calling those who live alone so they don’t feel isolated. Or offering to watch someone’s kids who can’t take time off from work. Be creative and allow the glory and love of God to overwhelm and overcome even the hardest and darkest of times.
I can’t give you all the reasons why this virus is spreading, (John Piper has a great article about the why here- https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-do-we-make-sense-of-the-coronavirus), but I do hope we can at least respond in a more Christ-exalting way. God is sovereign, so do not fear. But just because He is sovereign does not mean we should throw out all wisdom and put God to the test by being flippant. God has called us to a better way. May this virus be a chance for Christians to shine the light of Jesus to those around us!