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As we’ve been going through the book of Ecclesiastes in Sunday worship, we can be reminded that “there is nothing new under the sun” (1:9), even as it relates to the current, yet changing, state of things surrounding the coronavirus, or COVID-19.
History is filled with diseases, outbreaks, plagues, epidemics, and pandemics that have made a significant impact in the world. Take for instance the bubonic plague, known as the Black Death, in the 14th century. The death toll is estimated at upwards of 200 million people. Even Martin Luther was faced with this as the plague was making its way through Wittenberg, where he lived, in 1527. When plagues like this struck, often those who were wealthy fled to the countryside. We can ask the same question that Luther contemplated: Should a Christian flee this horrific plague?
With recent news of concerts, sporting events, even entire leagues being postponed or cancelled altogether; travel bans being issued; and still more yet to come (or other changes that have happened since the writing of this), we can be left wondering what our response should be during this time of crisis and uncertainty for many people.
Remember, the coronavirus is nothing new. Even the Bible speaks about plagues and diseases that will spread across the world. Listen to Revelation 9:20-21. “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.”
The figurative language of Revelation speaks of terrible events that will one day destroy the earth. But these verses make it clear that there is a much bigger issue at hand than some deadly disease. As our world is overloaded with information about the coronavirus and how do deal with it, there is a greater danger in front of them that many of them do not comprehend. This danger is not one that you can escape by fleeing to the countryside, or isolating yourself in your own home. It has a 100% mortality rate (compare this to the current 3% mortality rate of the coronavirus), and you have already contracted it.
The greatest threat to our world is sin. And no amount of handwashing, sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, masks, or quarantine will save any of us from the severe consequences of sin: death. Only the cleansing, redeeming blood of Jesus Christ can save us. Only in His death and resurrection can the greatest threat to our life be defeated. Physical death will come for us all, but Christ came that we would have life. Eternal life. That we would not suffer eternal death, hell, for our sin, but that we would receive heaven. Faith in Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life, makes this a reality.
In the face of the coronavirus, and the knowledge of sin, how then should we, as Christians, live?
One man’s concern is another man’s opportunity. With growing questions and worries about the coronavirus, this creates a wonderful opportunity for us to connect with the world around us and have meaningful conversations about life and death. Amidst all the concern, we can give a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). Amidst all the fear, we can show others that we walk by faith in the One who tells us to “fear not!” While others put their faith in science and medicine, we trust in the One who has given us the greatest gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. We can shine the light of Christ, the Word of God, into something that can only be answered by Him.
This does not mean that we should not follow the practical advice of professionals and health agencies to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the coronavirus. Yes, wash your hands regularly; avoid contact with those who are sick; disinfect areas that you come into contact with regularly; and many more.
Amidst all of this, remember that you have been washed clean in the waters of Baptism, that you have been marked as one redeemed by Christ the crucified, that He has called you as His own dearly loved child, and that you have been cleansed of all your sin by the innocent, precious blood of Christ. Take hope and courage that God has called you by name, and you are His. Understand though, Baptism does not mean you will be immune from the consequences of sin and the diseases of the world. It means that you have been united to Christ in His death and resurrection, and nothing can separate you from His love, not any kind of sickness or disease you may afflict you (Romans 6, 8).
As you continue to live surrounded with the fears, concerns, and uncertainties of the coronavirus, be confident in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who has called you out of the darkness of sin and death, into His marvelous light of life and salvation, so that you can proclaim His excellencies, His Good News of great joy (1 Peter 2:9) to the people in your life, to the people in the world. Let your light, the light of Christ, shine in the darkness of this dying world.
Finally, pray that God would help you to keep your faith in Him, no matter what happens to you in this life. And pray that God would give you the strength to share the Gospel with the world, which the Holy Spirit would bring them to faith, so that they will receive the eternal cure that only Jesus can give.