As the coronavirus has spread — it’s officially a global pandemic — many things have changed around the world. How should a Christian respond to all this change?
The world has changed so much over this last eighteen months.
For most of us, the coronavirus started as an international news item—something tragic but something that was happening somewhere else, to other people. And then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t. It started spreading—through cities, across borders, to the edge of continents, and then over the oceans. Now it’s everywhere. There’s no populated area on the planet left unaffected by the coronavirus — populations are either dealing with the infection itself or the fear of infection. Whatever you personally think of the virus—laughably overhyped or apocalyptic harbinger, or something in between —COVID-19 is here, and it’s part of your life.
The coronavirus is affecting everything. It’s affecting the number of people you should be around, the ages of those people and how much distance you should put between those people and yourself. It’s affecting how businesses are run and whether those businesses are even open. It’s affecting, in a deeply unsettling way, what’s available on the shelves of your local grocery store. Sporting events and conventions are being canceled. Schools are going on indefinite hiatuses. And no one knows how long any of it is going to last.
Christianity does not go on hiatus!
It’s impossible to know a lot of things right now. How long until things get back to normal? We don’t know. How many people will catch the disease? We don’t know. How many of them will die? We don’t know. What impact will all this have on the world economy? We don’t know... but it doesn’t look good.
Here’s what we do know:
Day-to-day life may change in a million ways, but Christians don’t get to stop being Christians just because they live in stressful times. In fact, the very core of your Christian faith is reflected in who you are when times get stressful.
Here are five things Christians can (and should!) be doing during the coronavirus pandemic:
1. We should be using our extra time for Bible study, meditation on the Word, and prayer.
As quarantine restrictions and recommendations
continue to tighten or change, a lot of us are
finding ourselves spending more and more time
at home... maybe even exclusively. It’s hard not
to feel a little stir-crazy when you’re stuck looking
at your own walls 24/7, especially when you start
running out of things to do. How’s your relationship
with God these days?
“Time” is the usual excuse for why we don’t pray
and study as much as we should. We never seem
to have enough of it. “A stronger relationship with
God lends itself to a greater sense of peace, a
clearer perspective and a continued sense of
purpose... which is something we could all use,
”But what about now, when many of us have
nothing but time? Are we setting aside chunks of
it to spend talking with God and reading through
the pages of His Word? Are we unplugging from
the newsfeeds and updates long enough to really
think about the scriptures we’re reading?
If we’re doing that, the end result is a stronger relationship with God. A stronger relationship with God lends itself to a greater sense of peace, a clearer perspective and a continued sense of purpose—which is something we could all use, especially now. With things having shut down, we have fewer excuses than ever to not invest that time with our Creator.
The coronavirus may have isolated us from a lot of things, but it has the potential to move us closer to God than ever before. Will we use that time wisely?
Paul told the Ephesians, “See then that you walk circumspectly [carefully], not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17, emphasis added throughout). The days aren’t any less evil than when Paul first wrote those words—and there’s no better time to redeem the time through Bible study, meditating on those words, and prayer.
2. We should be using social media to connect, rather than argue or spread fear.
If you’re on social media, then you know that the coronavirus pandemic is all
anyone can talk about. It’s everywhere, and because it’s easy to make up facts
and misinterpret data, there’s a lot of misinformation out there and a lot of arguments
over what’s really going on and what people should be doing. You can get involved
in those debates if you like, but I’m not convinced it would do any good. Like most
things on social media, there are a lot of passionate people in every camp, but
mostly they’re not convincing anyone except the ones who already agreed
Here’s an alternative:
When Paul and Silas were thrown into prison during one of their missionary
journeys, they did something extremely curious. “At midnight Paul and Silas
were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to
them” (Acts 16:25). You can choose to post positive, encouraging, uplifting
things—and your fellow prisoners might find themselves stopping and listening. Singing and praying. They could have been doing a lot of other things. Complaining... worrying... brooding in silence... sleeping... preaching at a literally captive audience. Instead, they were offering prayers and hymns to God, and their fellow prisoners were listening.
For a lot of people, quarantine feels like a prison. Through social media, you can preach directly at your fellow prisoners (at least until they “unfollow” you), but it probably won’t do much good. Instead, you can do what Paul and Silas did. Sing and pray.That doesn’t mean putting on rose-colored glasses or sticking your head in the sand. The coronavirus is real and, at least for some people, it can be a death sentence.
And it doesn’t mean sharing literal videos of you praying and singing, either. But in a newsfeed full of pandemic-related preaching and panic, you can choose to be a bright spot. You can choose to post positive, encouraging, uplifting thing... and your fellow prisoners might find themselves stopping and listening.
(Note: we’re not talking about passive-aggressive reminders that the world hasn’t ended or chiding others for worrying, but instead posting things like encouraging scriptures, fun things you’re doing with your family, helpful things you’ve read, projects you’re working on, lessons you’re learning—that sort of thing.) Be a voice that’s singing, not shouting.
3. We should be practicing patience in the face of a new normal.
The world is different than it was a year and a half ago... and it’s clear that it will stay different for a while. Different means change, and change means stress. Living through a global pandemic is absolutely going to mean dealing with at least some kind of stress, even if it’s just stress caused by inconvenience.
Patience comes from knowing that all things are ultimately in God’s hands and that He is watching over us, no matter the situation. You’re going to have a lot of opportunities to practice patience in the days and weeks ahead. Things aren’t going to work the way we’re used to them working, at least for a little while longer. People are going to say and do stupid, selfish things. New laws and restrictions will make life a little more uncomfortable and a little harder to navigate. In those moments, your faith will be on display for everyone to see... naked and unmistakable. What exactly will they be seeing? How will you act?
James urges us, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4). In stressful moments, when your faith is tested, responding with patience brings us one step closer to where we need to be as Christians. Outrage doesn’t do that. Neither does fear. Neither does taking advantage of others or hurling accusations. Only patience can do that, because patience comes from knowing that all things are ultimately in God’s hands and that He is watching over us, no matter the situation. That’s the Christian we need to be... and the Christian others need to see. Did you know that longsuffering is part of the fruit of the Spirit? It’s something God wants us to be always growing in.
4. We should be reaching out to the lonely and the disconnected.
God has a special place in His heart for those who lack
the societal supports most of us have. “Pure and undefiled
religion before God and the Father is this, writes James,
“to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep
oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). With the
coronavirus impacting the world in such a powerful way,
there are a lot of people out there who could use support.
Who are the lonely and disconnected ones in your life right
now? What can you do for them?
A phone call or video call can mean a lot for someone who
feels cut off from the world around them. Is there anyone
you know who could use groceries or supplies but can’t
(or shouldn’t) be the one to go out and get them? Even
with in-person visits off the table, there are a lot of ways
we can be mental and emotional supports for those who
need it... especially if we’re willing to be a little creative.
5. We should be extending grace to those
who are panicking.
I mentioned earlier that some people are going to say and
do stupid, selfish things—and, honestly, that one deserves its own point. So here it is... It takes something more than patience to know how to interact with panicked people. It takes something closer to grace.
Grace is an undeserved gift. Salvation... our entrance into the Kingdom of God and ultimate deliverance from the price of our sins, is offered to us through “the grace of God” (Titus 2:11). We can’t earn it, and we don’t deserve it. It’s accessible to us because, and only because, God is willing to give it to us.
Peter wanted to know how many times he was required to forgive someone who repeatedly sinned against him. “Up to seven times?” he asked Jesus (Matthew 18:21). “I do not say to you, up to seven times,” answered Jesus, “but up to seventy times seven” (verse 22). Then He told a parable whose central lesson boils down to this: forgive like God forgave you. Even when people aren’t actively seeking our forgiveness, Christians are expected to be in a forgiving mind-set. It’s one small way we can have character more like God’s... in other words, godliness.
A lot of people out there are scared. Many of them don’t know the plan of God, they don’t know what’s coming, and they don’t know the things that have to happen on the way there. The coronavirus pandemic is an ominous threat looming in front of them, and they’re scared.
The problem is that scared people can do scary things... selfish, unpredictable, foolish, reckless, hurtful, dangerous things.
What will you do when you find yourself directly affected by the fear and panic of others? It would be easy to get angry... to chew others out for their shortsighted, self-centered actions... and they’d probably even deserve it too.
But part of being a Christian means knowing that you’re not getting what
you ultimately deserve—because God showed you grace. When we’re
confronted with the fruits of fear, Christians have the opportunity to extend
grace. It doesn’t excuse or justify those fearful actions, but it does say, “I’m
not going to hold this against you or respond in anger. God has forgiven
me of so much more.”
What’s more, we know something important. We know that God is “not
willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”
(2 Peter 3:9). That includes whoever happens to be making our lives
difficult in the moment. These scared people are all potential sons and
daughters of God, just like us. Even if they don’t realize their potential yet,
even if that’s not how they’re acting, that’s how we should be treating them.
The coronavirus has put a spotlight on Christian faith.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world right now. Life has changed in strange and uncomfortable ways. With all the question marks the world is having to grapple with, it’s more important than ever that we as Christians show ourselves to be consistent and determined to “not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
How we respond to the coronavirus crisis is going to showcase our faith, or our lack thereof. It doesn’t mean we can’t be concerned about how things are playing out. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take precautions to keep ourselves healthy and safe. But the days and weeks ahead are going to be filled with ample opportunities to show that the values we talk about are the values we live by.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. But most of all, stay Christian!
- extracted and updated from an article by Jeremy Lallier, March 2020, Life Hope & Truth