No – I am not going to pull a verse out of the Bible and tell you that Jesus has a master plan for dealing with the Corona Virus. I do not know what Jesus would do, because he did not face COVID-19. But the virus does challenge our public witness as followers of Jesus.
As most public health announcements have reminded us – we need to practice healthy routines such as washing our hands, sneezing and coughing into an elbow, avoiding people who are ill and ensuring that we keep our own illness away from other people. Which should not be new, because that is what we should always be doing. That said, I want to challenge us to find a Christ-like response to this particular illness in our community.
Do Not Fear
This is what fear does: it makes us push people away who might threaten our health, or our comfort, or our well-being. When we are afraid, we fight for our own lives. We will stock-pile food, collect hand sanitizers, steal surgical masks from the local health services and do our best to banish sick people to some safe place where we will not have to see them.
And Jesus refused to be part of this. Jesus became the voice of the loving acceptance of God in a community that offered only cruel and selfish rejection of sick people. We will not curse those who are ill. Instead we will be the force of love and compassion that holds the community together.
Become a Steady Presence
As people of faith, we can learn from Jesus’ response to illness. In a community that is tempted to panic in fear of COVID-19, we have an unwavering certainty in the love and strength of God. In a culture that insists on protecting itself at all costs, we have an opportunity to offer a voice of love and compassion for those who are weakened by the virus. And in a world that is frightened by the possibility of dying, we can speak words of a faith in life being more than just staying alive.
We believe in a life that is larger than avoiding death. We believe in an eternal life that can give us courage to refuse to become driven by our fears of dying. Throughout history the followers of Jesus have shown love and compassion to the ill and the dying without regard to our own survival. Because one day all will be gathered before the Throne of Grace, and God will thank those who cared for the “least of these” (Matthew 25).
We will not panic when the virus arrives in our community. For those not yet touched by this virus – do not laugh it off as “just the flu”. Watch places such as China, Korea and Italy: pray for them – and prepare for this to come to your town.
Followers of the way of Jesus ought to think of the health of those around us. If you are ill, please limit your contact with others. Let us learn to greet without shaking hands. Let us learn new ways of living in society so that we all are safe.
Two links are important to read: one is about social distancing : https://medium.com/@ariadnelabs/social-distancing-this-is-not-a-snow-day-ac21d7fa78b4
The other is about “flattening the curve” of infection: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/03/13/815502262/flattening-a-pandemics-curve-why-staying-home-now-can-save-lives
In addition to this, let us offer online support, livestream church services, assist with shopping for the aged, explore ways of supporting the local health-care workers, and let us provide courage to the community we live in.
Let us all step up and show grit when all around us are fearful. Because this is what Jesus would have us do.
I’ve commanded you to be strong and brave. Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged! I am the LORD your God, and I will be there to help you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)