I’ve been reading and watching the news lately which probably explains the twitch developing in my right eye. At the risk of besmirching the Fourth Estate, most coverage of the coronavirus leads me to believe it’s more deadly than becoming the newest drummer for Spinal Tap.
But even if the most sensationalized reports are accurate, is there an appropriate Christian response to a pandemic? Absolutely. Our culture will be looking to followers of Jesus for our collective and individual responses. Let’s look at both…
Christians have always been the first to selflessly respond to crises. The first boots on the ground immediately after a natural disaster, the first smiling face of compassion to refugees of war, the first hands to give a meal during times of famine all belonged to faithful followers of Jesus. We’re sacrificially generous because we’re made in the image of a sacrificially generous God.
That’s why it’s no surprise that churches and denominations were the first to give aid to those affected by coronavirus. Followers of Jesus were hard at work over a month ago in the Hubei Province of China which is considered the epicenter of the outbreak. In isolation through quarantine, people of God are able to minister to the 60 million people who are facing frightening uncertainty.
That’s how the Church is responding, but what’s the best God-honoring individual response to troubling news?
1. Discover the source of peace.
Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful. — Jesus in John 14:27 CSB
When Jesus talked to His followers about the peace the world gives, He was living in a part of the world controlled by the Roman Empire during a time historians call Pax Romana (Roman Peace). I’m not going to make this a history lesson, but this was a period of peace that lasted 200-ish years without any major armed conflict against Rome. Ironically, this peace was achieved through brutal violence and was anything but inclusive.
Jesus was trying to teach His followers that the peace they were experiencing was a generic substitute for real peace. They didn’t need any convincing–they were living under Roman occupation. The peace Jesus offered, even in the shadow of His impending arrest and execution, is the same peace He offers us. Jesus, as the Prince of Peace, is the source of true peace. As the one in whom all things were created (Colossians 1:16), He knew that nothing in creation, not even death itself, can sever the bond between the Savior and the ones He came to save. Invincibility is a peaceful reality.
2. Choose peace in all circumstances.
May the Lord of peace himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 2 Thessalonians 3:16 CSB
Paul was emphatic. Followers of Jesus can experience the peace of God in every circumstance! His words were written to a group of Christians who were living in frightening times — they were literally being persecuted. Death was a daily reality for them (see 1 Thessalonians 1:4–10 and 1 Thessalonians 2:14).
True peace is not acquired through human effort. Like our salvation, peace is a divine gift that is received only in surrender.
3. Live wisely.
God allows us to understand the difference between what is responsible and what is foolish and has put people in our lives to help us when an answer isn’t immediately obvious. These days, wisdom looks like this: Wash your hands. Don’t sneeze on people. Don’t share a straw with someone who has a sore throat (or anyone, for that matter–that’s just gross). If you’re classified as high risk for infection, limit your exposure to people. Most importantly, if you’re unsure about best practices for you and your loved ones, don’t take the advice of whoever is talking most loudly on television; ask your doctor.
One last piece of counsel: Walk in wisdom and do not succumb to hysteria. Withdrawal and isolation are favorite tools of the enemy and are dangerous places for the people of God to live.
Pay careful attention, then, to how you live — not as unwise people but as wise. Ephesians 5:15 CSB
Viruses, market forecasts, politicians, and policies come and go but the peace we have in Jesus in unshakable and unbroken. We’re not subject to the whim of circumstance but held tightly in the peaceful and powerful arms of the Almighty.
Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6–7 CSB