How do we respond to dangerous situations that will surely present themselves in our daily walk? The Bible says that such situations will happen, and fear is a default response of the fallen world.
The coronavirus will be around for a long time to come. We are not out of the woods yet.. The last pandemic (Swine flu) in 2009 lasted 20 months. “Death anxiety” will afflict all of us, but our response will depend on our eternal hope.
“Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life.In the morning you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were evening!’And at evening you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were morning!’ because of the fear which terrifies your heart, and because of the sight which your eyes see”. Deuteronomy 28:66-67
Christians often find small and irrelevant things to argue about. However, in the face of a major threat, be it a threat to the nation [financial meltdown, acts of terrorism] or a threat to personal safety [crime, violence, disease], the response of Christians appears to be vastly different depending on personality, theology, and nationality.
For the last two months, there has been a great deal of fear and worry with regard to the COVID-19 that has been affecting the world. For better or worse, the health authorities (WHO and governments) determined that this virus required a different response than the previous major virus pandemics that affected the world, including the coronavirus SARS and MERS, and the swine flu pandemic of 2009, that lasted 20 months.
The authorities introduced a new and broad paradigm of treatment/containment with regard to the Covid 19 viral pandemic, which includes social distancing and self-isolation. This resulted in entire countries shutting down their economies for many weeks. At time of writing certain countries are still under lockdown, while others are reopening.
For some Christian churches and pastors, the inability to meet in the church has become a major “freedom” issue . In the badly affected United States, many churches have defied the authorities and held gatherings. In certain states churches have gone to court to assert the right to have in person services. The cited reason is that the authorities are restricting individual choice. They won in court and the ruling stated that “the right of every American to follow their conscience on matters related to religion” matters.
Other churches and ministries have decided to follow the authorities’ guidelines on the matter, citing Romans 13 and other passages .
In summary the view taken is that it is “not fear of death that should guide church leaders to stay closed, but love of life and, specifically, our neighbor’s life. Christians should be known for that”.
In general, this issue has divided Christians, deacon and elder boards, pastors, and families. Do we lockdown or do we zealously continue as normal?
We need to balance the needs of the church and the needs of the others. The toll on other, non-medical, aspects of human life need to be considered. The lockdown may save virus related deaths but the fallout could be global poverty and hunger, which could affect millions, including poverty related deaths.
Anecdotal and social research does indicate that this new “lockdown” paradigm with regard to a viral pandemic has resulted in other issues including “tsunami” of domestic violence , global mental health crisis and financial ruin for many people.
Such a poverty and hunger perspective is sometimes not appreciated in affluent societies. But for third world countries, poverty related deaths post economic slowdown could number in the millions.
When the swine flu pandemic of 2009 affected the world, such drastic “lockdown” measures were not put into place. The swine flu is transmitted in the same way as Covid corona virus. Since 2010, the CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9 million – 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 – 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually since 2010 in the US.
We can see that if such influenza statistics have been published every year, and amplified in the media, we would have been very afraid of our lives. Yet life went on with proper protection from the Swine H1N1 flu including being careful about coming into contact with those who had the flu, washing our hands and wearing masks where necessary. I remember for many years travelling to Asia where most people would wear masks in the airport as a matter of routine.
Where is the balance?
For the Christian, prudence is not opposed to faith. We should avoid both extremes, that is being extremely afraid, or being extremely irresponsible.
The response to COVID-19 could have similar to the 2009 swine flu pandemic, but with stricter border controls and preventive measures. But that is water under the bridge. Going forward, Christians, like everyone else, might contract the Covid-19 in future , just like we might get the flu. We must remember that more than 80% of those infected are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, and this is where we must place our trust in God..
Let us be gracious to one another.
For those who are very scared of leaving their homes, let us be gracious and gradually allow them to come out depending upon how the Lord leads them. Do not force them to come to church just because you are comfortable about it. Causing unnecessary guilt for someone else is sinful.
For those of who are zealous to the extent of taking unnecessary risks, please understand that God is sovereign, and that we do not need to force his hand. The world is watching, and if Christian leaders make statements that seem irresponsible, it will only cause damage to the cause of Christ. It is already a narrative in the press.
Balancing Faith and Fear
While faith in Christ can inspire us to not be fearful in the face of earthly trials including disease, Christians are still to be a light to the world, and we should seek the good of others, by giving proper attention to protecting one another.
The response to the COVID-19 pandemic as compared to the Swine H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009, may have been disproportionate and rampant fear has taken hold. The authorities are reopening society, recognising that prolonged social isolation and shutdown is not sustainable. There is likely to be a second wave of infection because there is insufficient herd immunity and vaccines are not available.
Remember, we may still get sick later, as this virus will be around for a least 2 years, if previous pandemics are models for prognostication.
So what should we do?
Do not fear the virus. God is still on His throne and is sovereign over all. When mandated and allowed by the local authorities, go back to your routines, you jobs, to church, to family and other gatherings – always being prudent in the same way that we used to conduct ourselves with regard to the yearly flu epidemics, and with greater diligence.
The fear of death and sharing the gospel
What is death anxiety? Anxiety related to our knowing that “we will die is to know death anxiety”
The fear of death anxiety (thanatophobia) stirred up by the 24-hour drum beat in the media, including the latest death toll on the screen, has focused many on their own mortality
With regard to mortality and death, the Christian knows that this life is transient, and that we are pilgrims in this land. Our true destiny is eternal life and our future is with the Lord Jesus Christ. That gives us great comfort. Everyone will die one day, of many other causes. Covid 19 will become another virus that is endemic over the years.
What happens when we die?
But for now, the question is – If we die today, what is our destiny in the afterlife. The Bible says we either go to paradise (joy with Jesus), or to hell (torment out of the presence of God).
Trust in Jesus for the future and your afterlife. Our life is short and we can die anytime. In January 2020, a 41-year old billionaire sportsman and his 13-year-old daughter died unexpectedly. It can happen to you or me suddenly.
If you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you are eternally secure, whether you die of Covid-19, cancer, road traffic accidents, heart disease, or any other issue. Hold onto this truth. Every Bible character who truly trusted God, acted with prudence and yet, was not afraid to die if that was what what’s going to happen. God is sovereign over all.
The real difference between living forever in heaven or hell depends on whether we have been reconciled to God. All religions talk about appeasing God, but it is impossible to do so on our own. Knowing we could never do enough good to save ourselves, God sent His son, Jesus to bring us to eternal life. We must accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our saviour, repent of our sins and accept the penalty he paid for our sins on the Cross. The Bible says:
- “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
- Yet, God gives us the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord(Romans 6:23)
- The good news is that that “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”. Romans 10:9
At a time when COVID-19 has brought the issue of our mortality and death so close to home for almost everyone, this moment may be a good opportunity to share the reason for your hope of eternity with those who do not know Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,
kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-6)
Please contact us if God is speaking to you today about repentance and believing in Jesus for salvation.