The Coronavirus and the Christian

How should Christians think about and respond to the coronavirus? Here are some initial thoughts…

Plague and the Problem of Evil

Christians see the world in a way that makes sense of the world. We have an understanding of why plagues and the problem of evil exist.

That leads us to acknowledge something else that’s super important to focus on: Jesus. Jesus did not leave us to our problems. He did not leave us to simply wallow in plagues. Instead, He Himself plunged headlong into our sorrow.

“The God of The Bible becomes completely human and hurts in every way that we do—from physical pain to social rejection, misunderstanding, hatred, violence, and death. He endures it all. And because he suffers all of this with us, he can empathize with our sorrow and pain. Even more amazingly, Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection are the avenues through which he overcomes all evil, pain, and misery and is able to offer us the promise that disappointment will give way to joy, brokenness to eternal healing, and evil to good. Because of Christ’s agony, death will die and life will live on forever.”[1]

Therefore, even in the midst of plague and the problem of evil we can point people to Jesus. We can point people to hope, no matter what happens. Therefore, Christian, continue to worship Christ as Lord and always be ready to tell everyone the reason you have hope even in the midst of the chaos of the curse and the coronavirus (1 Pet. 3:15).

This leads us to our next observation…

Jesus and Vaccines

Yes, problems and plagues remain but Jesus waded into the suffering. Suffering engulfed Him as He died upon an instrument of man’s sickest imaginings. Jesus drank our problems down to the dregs.

To be a Christian is to be a person who hopes in Jesus and seeks to live like Jesus. We don’t hope ultimately in vaccines. So, even as we look, work towards, and hope for a vaccine, our hope is not in that vaccine. The ultimate sickness that we all face is not helped by any earthly remedy. But, “unlike some other identifications of human trouble, a diagnosis of sin and guilt allows hope. Something can be done for this malady. Something has been done for it.”[2]

Christians have a heavenly perspective even as our feet are firmly planted on earth to love and serve. And that brings us to our next consideration….

Servants in the Streets

“Servants in the streets,”[3] that is what the early church was[4] and that is what the church in China has been modeling. Christians in the Chinese city of Wuhan are “actively on the ground right now, providing masks and food to as many people as they can to help prevent the virus.”[5] They say with the apostle Paul, “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).

Christians have a long history of compassionate, even risky, care.[6] Helping the sick, however, has not been the norm for all people, at all places, at all times. Actually, postmodernism gives no grounds for helping the sick or really doing or not doing anything at all.[7] So, caring for people, let alone sick people, should not be assumed as important or as a given. For example, “The Romans saw helping a sick person as a sign of human weakness; whereas Christians, in light of what Jesus taught about helping the sick, believed they were not only serving the sick but also serving God.”[8]

“The early Christians unequivocally rejected the callous, inhumane culture of the Greco-Roman world. They saw each person as having a redeemable soul, and therefore it was God-pleasing to nurture and nurse any and every person, regardless of his or her social status. Because eternal life awaited all those who believed and died in Christ, life on earth was not the ultimate value. Even if one died while caring for the sick, a greater and better life lay ahead; moreover, if a sick or dying person came to see and accept Christ’s forgiveness, another soul was gained for eternal life. That kind of behavior was totally foreign to pagan thought.”[9]

I’m not saying what Western Christians must do if the coronavirus hits in a devastating way. We must, however, note that we understand why plagues and problems of all kind are here, and we have hope in their midst; we know that Jesus is ultimately the hope of all mankind, no vaccine is truly enough; we must look at the example of Jesus, our brothers and sisters in China, and the historical precedence set by our brothers and sisters throughout the centuries in response to plagues.

As Christians, we are empowered to be servants in the streets. We can walk the road of destruction knowing that we have a Shepherd who walked the path before us, walks with us, and brings us through. We can be bold and fearless, though not foolish.[10] And that brings us to our last observation…

Caring and Careful

I believe that we have seen that Christians must care for others. They must care for others because that is what Christ Himself modeled and called us to. We must, however, also be careful and wise. We don’t want to go around to people in a desire to help them all the while infecting them. 

So, with many things, there are no easy answers. But, care and compassion are vital, and so is godly wisdom. 

We may still be without any clear conclusion but I think we have considered some important things that will help us down the road if we have difficult decisions to make. But…

Whatever happens, may we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ… For it has been granted to us on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him (Phil. 1:27, 30).

________________

[1] Joshua D. Chatraw and Mark D. Allen, Apologetics at the Cross, 53-54.

[2] Plantiga, Not the Way it’s Supposed to Be, xii.

[3] Jesus Himself was a Servant in the streets. Jesus reached out and touched lepers, lepers had an infectious disease and yet He reached out and touched them.

[4] “The church had qualities unparalleled in the ancient world. Nowhere else would you find slaves and masters, Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, engaging in table fellowship and showing a real love for one another. That love overflowed to outsiders, and in times of plague and disaster the Christians shone by means of their service to communities in which they lived” (Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church, 19).

[5] Leah MarieAnn Klett, “Christians risk lives to help fight coronavirus in China as death toll skyrockets” see also Tim Tune, “Christians in China Courageously Share Gospel in Coronavirus Crisis Zone.”

[6] Serving to the point of sacrifice and putting oneself in jeopardy is in many ways unnatural and uncommon. But historically, it has been quite common for Christians. One historian even says, “The credit of ministering to human suffering on an extended scale belongs to Christianity” (Fielding H. Garrison, An Introduction of the History of Medicine [Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1914], 118). 

[7]See e.g. “Darwin, Dawkins, and Moral Duty” and “Is there a basis for Human Rights?”

[8] Alvin J. Schmidt, How Christianity Changed the World, 153.

[9] Schmidt, How Christianity Changed the World, 153. There was a plague in Alexandra around 250AD and it was said that people “thrust aside anyone who began to be sick, and kept aloof even from their dearest friends, and cast the sufferers out upon the public roads half dead, and left them unburied” (Dionysius, Epistle 12.5). Christians, however, stuck out by their self-hazardous love and care of others. Dionysius said, “Very many of our brethren, while, in their exceeding love and brotherly-kindness, they did not spare themselves, but kept by each other, and visited the sick without thought of their own peril, and ministered to them assiduously, and treated them for their healing in Christ, died from time to time most joyfully along with them, lading themselves with pains derived from others, and drawing upon themselves their neighbours’ diseases, and willingly taking over to their own persons the burden of the sufferings of those around them. And many who had thus cured others of their sicknesses, and restored them to strength, died themselves, having transferred to their own bodies the death that lay upon these” (Dionysius, Epistle 12.4). And even in the midst of the plague the Christians continued to gather together: “every place that had been the scene of some of the successive sufferings which befell any of us, became a seat for our solemn assemblies — the field, the desert, the ship, the inn, the prison — all alike… while again we rejoiced deeply in that peace of Christ which He imparted to us alone” (Dionysius, Epistle 12.2).

[10] Christians in China “are being as safe as possible, they’re taking every precaution they can, but they feel this is a calling” and they are doing what they feel the Lord would have them do (Klett, “Christians risk lives to help fight coronavirus in China as death toll skyrockets”).

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 10 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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