How Would God Have Us Respond to this Coronavirus?

Updated: Mar 17, 2020

The coronavirus (COVID-19) threat has increased significantly in the past few weeks as it continues to spread both itself and the panic and fear that comes along with it across the entire globe. Every news channel you turn to, every other finger-scroll through your Facebook newsfeed, billions of mentions in the Twitterverse, all talking about the deadly spread of this flu-like respiratory disease and the devastating impact it could have on our lives. Scenes of pandemonium across the country with desperate and terrified people cleaning out grocery store shelves of water (and toilet paper of all things!) are inescapable.

Governing authorities in our country have imposed traveling and even gathering restrictions in an effort to contain the spread of this virus. In California, governor Newsom issued a recommendation on Thursday to cancel all gatherings of 250+ people—which he upgraded Friday morning to a mandatory order. This, and similar mandatory cancellations of large gatherings have forced Christian churches across the country to cancel their Sunday Services.

The leadership of our church decided late Friday afternoon to do the same even though we don’t quite expect that number of weekly worshippers. We did it because we have a large number of high-risk people at our church and thought it the wise/prudent thing to do as a precaution. We did not cancel our service because we’ve given in to the pandemonium, chaos, fear, and uncertainty surrounding this crisis. We firmly believe that this crisis—as well as all things that happen in life—happen according to the predetermined plan and will of God, and we entrust the outcome to Him (Eph 1:11; Heb 1:3)

Pouring through all the articles, news stories, and newsfeeds, closely following this pandemic for the past few weeks, I figured this is the perfect opportunity to both write the inaugural post on our church blog, as well as provide a timely, much-needed biblical perspective on this crisis.

So how would God have us respond to this coronavirus pandemic and the pandemonium it has created? Below I have 9 suggestions—which are really biblical commands for all of the Christian life in general—that I believe we must apply if we’re to respond to this global crisis in a way that pleases God in front of a watching world.

Be Informed (1 Thess 4:13; 1 Cor 10:2).

The Bible is filled with exhortations for Christians to not be ignorant but informed. Though the meaning of these exhortations is single and to be understood in the historical setting which the author wrote, the applications are many. With respect to the coronavirus, it means be informed—know the facts. There are many media outlets in this online age of ubiquitous information accessible at the click of a button and tap/scroll of a finger. Many of these are unreliable sources of information which often exaggerate and even fabricate information to sensationalize a story—which in the case of the coronavirus—can create more unnecessary fear/panic. A trusted source of information in this case would be the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and leading medical research centers such as Johns Hopkins University (JHU). The information, statistics, and data coming from sources like these is far more likely to be closer to the truth.

And what do these two have to say about coronavirus? Though the virus can be deadly, particularly for the elderly, especially those with underlying health conditions (cardiac, respiratory, etc.), over 80% of current cases are mild, with those infected experiencing zero to mild symptoms. Date from JHU shows that most infected people are cured and the number of those recovering continues to increase.

Be Calm (Psalm 46:10; Phil 4:6–7; John 14:1, 27)

As Christians, we have been given an inexplicable peace that is beyond human comprehension. This peace enables us to remain calm in the face of the most stressful, difficult, panic-stricken, chaotic times, such as what we’re seeing now. We have this peace because have faith in Christ, who by his sacrifice justified us and gave us peace with God (Rom 5:1). And because of this peace with God, we have resurrection hope unto glory and eternal life, no matter what happens here on earth (1 Thess 4:13–18; 1 Pet 1:3–5; John 3:16; 6:37–40).

Be Courteous (Titus 3:2; Col 4:6; Eph 4:32; 1 Cor 14:40)

Some of the scenes from Costco, Sam’s Club, and other grocery stores are straight out of the Black Friday Greatest Hits album. It goes without saying that graciousness, kindness, and courteousness are marks of a true Christian. We don’t stop being any of these things even in times of crisis. We don’t push our way through, knocking people aside like bowling pins in the grocery store to grab the last roll of toilet paper. We don’t snatch the last water bottle out of the little old lady’s hand who just beat us to it. We don’t give glares of death and snarl and scowl and vent our frustrations at the long lines and wait times at checkout.

Be Generous (1 Tim 6:17–18; Acts 20:35; Prov 19:17; Matt 10:42)

If you see there’s a shortage of certain items at the store, don’t clean the shelf of whatever is left . . . like the toilet paper. Leave some for those around you are also in need. Moreover, be willing and prepared to share even of what you have in your home—food, water, and yes even toilet paper—should supply shortages reach that level of scarcity in the coming weeks/months!

Be Vigilant (1 Pet 1:13; 4:7; 5:8; 1 Thess 5:6)

There are a lot of basic hygiene and social practices you can employ on a regular basis to protect yourself from contracting coronavirus and prevent its spreading to others. Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, don’t touch your face, stay at home if you have any cold/flu-like symptoms until they subside. If you step out, wear a mask, avoid close and unnecessary contact, and clean/disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. If you have any of the coronavirus symptoms and they continue to worsen, then by all means go and take a test. If not, be mindful of the shortage of testing kits and save them for those who truly need to be tested.

Be Wise

There’s a tendency among a lot of Christians when a new crisis emerges—weather an infectious virus, or an economic downturn, or even a horrific act of terror—to immediately speculate that surely the end of the world is at hand or that it is another sign of the “end times” that Jesus was talking about in the Olivet discourse (cf. Matt 24–25; Mark 13; Luke 21).

The reality is, no one knows exactly when the end of the world will be—not even Jesus, the Son of God himself (Matt 24:36; Mark 13:32). Moreover, the “end times” was simply a saying that the Jews had that spoke of the times of the Messiah who would usher in the era of the kingdom of God. Since Jesus is the promised Messiah, the end times were inaugurated with his first coming and we have been in them ever since—for 2000 years. Wisdom dictates we don’t join the choir of prophecy-obsessed, end times-predicting consumed Christians who are constantly trying to connect the “signs of the times” in an effort to identify the end of the world with the day and age we live in.

Be Faithful (2 Tim 2:15; ; 1 Cor 4:2; Col 1:7; Matt 25:21)

There are few better opportunities in life to reach the lost and dying world with the hope of the gospel than a time of crisis. Share with your unsaved family, friends, colleagues, and yes even strangers at the grocery store the reason for the joy/peace you have in the midst of the chaos/uncertainty around you. In fact, this joy/peace ought to be evident in your calm, peaceful, joyful speech and disposition, which is proof-positive of the transforming power of the gospel to the watching world around you (1 Cor 1:18; Rom 1:16).

Be Prayerful (1 Thess 5:16–18; Phil 4:6–7; Col 4:2; Rom 12:12)

It’s easy to give into the panic and pandemonium as many in way or another are around you. It’s much harder to stand firm in the faith and salvation you know you have secured eternally in Jesus Christ. There are people around you who depend on you to be strong, unwavering, firm in your faith. We don’t have the spiritual resources to always be strong and courageous, but we do have God’s Spirit in us, and we also have prayer—a powerful, practical way to tap into the power of God who promises to give us everything we need in time of need (Heb 4:15–16). More importantly, your family, your neighbors, your country, the world—believing and believing—infected or uninfected—all need your prayers. Those who believe for grace and strength, those who don’t for salvation.

Be Prepared

The global response to this virus compared to others that have appeared over recent years—Zika, Ebola, Swine Flu, SARS, West Nile—has been unprecedented. Travel bans to severely infected regions of the world, mandatory gathering restrictions, professional sports leagues suspended, school closures, businesses shutdown. Not only has this had devastating impacts on the US and global economy with money markets losing billions in value already, but this means that many major personal life events including engagements, showers, and weddings have all been cancelled. We need to accept the reality that this virus has changed life as we know it, and if we do, we can expect similar global pandemonium in the future when the next deadly virus arrives and be prepared in advance to respond in a way that pleases the Lord, faithfully entrusting the outcome to His Sovereign almighty hands (Psalm 115:3; 103:19; 135:6; Isaiah 46:10).

Sebastian Petz

Senior Pastor, McF

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