A Christian Response to COVID-19

The title of this post begins with the word “a,” meaning that I think there are many ways for Christians to respond to the coronavirus. What follows is one Christian’s response.

Let’s start with the shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders which have become so pervasive. While I believe there is a place for them, especially to protect those who are most vulnerable, like the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, there needs to be concern for the rest of humanity. In early March, my family and I agreed that there would likely be a rise in suicide as people sheltered in place. Two months later, I read federal agencies and experts were warning that a historic wave of mental-health problems was approaching, including PTSD, substance abuse, depression, and suicide. In the context of COVID-19, some of these issues are brought about by isolation, while others are brought about by economic hardship as well as other factors. We’ve all heard about–and in some cases experienced–small businesses closing, people losing their jobs, and a resultant sharp spike in the unemployment rate.

I don’t think we should ask which is more important: protecting the lives of the most vulnerable among us or reopening the economy. A better question is: how can we balance the needs of everyone? For the sake of comparison: depending on your age, you may have heard of the Hong Kong flu of 1968-69, which killed somewhere between one million and four million worldwide; by comparison, COVID-19 has killed about 300,000 so far. During the Hong Kong flu, there were no shelter-in-place orders in the U.S. (Remember Woodstock?) Why has the reaction been so strong this time? I believe one of the main reasons is the 24/7 news cycle. Back in 1968, the “news” was mostly in newspapers and on the 6:00 TV news. I’m sure there are many other reasons that people can come up with as well, including the blame game that politicians and the rest of us like to play. However, I believe there is also a deeper reason, which is a different attitude toward death.

50+ years ago, families were larger and lifespans were shorter; the prevailing attitude seemed to be that death was something natural that happened to everyone–and everything–sooner or later. In our comparatively sanitized lives now, the average person is less likely to see a dead animal close up, for example. Furthermore, people are less comfortable talking about death than they used to be. Now there are increasing efforts to extend life as long as possible, partly because of so many amazing advances in health care. I believe that all of this explains the fear and panic I observed during a shopping trip to Costco on March 6; you could see the fear on people’s faces, and you could observe the panic with which people were buying mass quantities of various items. This was six days before the CA governor imposed the stay-at-home order, and the panic buying quickly worsened.

In Scripture, there are many verses that tell us not to be fearful or anxious. There are some pastors who have taught that these are “normal” feelings but not necessarily sin. Well, they are normal, but they are also sinful because they reflect a lack of trust in the Lord. It was very refreshing recently to hear a guest pastor of our new church say that fear is selfish. He didn’t explicitly say why, but I believe it’s because fear tends to be paralyzing, which makes it less likely we will serve others.

I have my own fear of bees and other stinging insects, but that does not prevent me from mowing the lawn with bees buzzing around flowers on the edge of it. I can sometimes become anxious about other things as well, but as Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” If you have become fearful and anxious in the age of the coronavirus, take these verses to heart.

A relative that I have a lot of respect for mused in early March about whether COVID-19 could be one of the end-time “pestilences” mentioned, for example, in Luke 21:11. At the time, I didn’t think so, but now I think it may very well be a forerunner of much worse plagues to come.

A final comment: Several weeks ago, I saw a list of movies and shows in which the apocalypse is brought on by nuclear war or plague. Missing from the list was The Stand, a wonderful 1994 miniseries. If you want to watch an ultimate battle between good–with a Christian theme–and evil in the aftermath of most of the human race being wiped out by plague, this is for you. Because of some violent content, don’t watch with young children.

7 thoughts on “A Christian Response to COVID-19

  1. “…Well, they (being fearful or anxious) are normal, but they are also sinful…”
    For the most part I agree with this. Overall, we as believers do not trust the Lord as we should, and much of the fear and anxiety we experience goes against what He would desire for us. But I can think of at least one Scriptural example where some residual fear was acceptable. In Phil. 2:28, Paul says, “I am the more eager to send him, that you may rejoice at seeing him (Epaproditus), and that I may be less anxious.” Paul wanted to send Epaphroditus back to the Philippian church, in part, to reduce, though not eliminate, his anxiety over Epaphroditus’s health. There’s a difference between emotions and actions (which include willful thought), and based on this, I believe that it’s possible for some who experience anxiety, but don’t dwell upon it, to not be in sin.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Paul’s anxiety in Philippians 2:28 appears to be for the Philippian church, who had heard Epaphroditus was ill. Paul mentions both in verse 27 and verse 30 that Epaphroditus almost died. From verse 25, we know that the Philippian church had sent Epaphroditus to take care of Paul’s needs. Sending him back to the Philippian church would bring them great joy and relieve Paul’s anxiety for them. This anxiety strikes me as a very godly concern; Paul’s greatest concern, as always, is for the spiritual health of the church, in this case the one in Philippi, which Epaphroditus would strengthen upon his return.

      I believe that there are times where fear or anxiety is a natural reaction. For example, when I have seen bears in the wild at national parks while hiking, I have experienced a degree of fear, I suppose most would say healthy fear. However, that has been balanced by the privilege of seeing these magnificent animals in their natural habitat. I think the key to not being in sin, as you alluded to, is not to dwell on fear or anxiety, but instead to present our requests to the Lord with thanksgiving.

      Like

  2. Hey Keith. I appreciate your thoughts and comments on a Christian response to COVID and particularly the fear part. In talking with people regularly, “fear” has been a common theme, but as the Pandemic has gone on, I hear it less. On the other hand many around here have lost loved ones or known people who have died. As I said in my Christmas letter, we know several who have died and many who are mourning lost ones. I agree that fear makes us less apt to serve others and to reach out of our comfort zones; I have noticed this in me, though I serve others nearly daily in my job. A good read that I continue to read over and over again is “Christ and the Coronavirus” by John Piper. There’s so much in it that affirms God’s sovereignty even in bad circumstances. In addition, he proposes several things that God might be doing with this Pandemic. I am part of a prayer group, and we have been alerted to the fact that many whom we’ve been praying for for a long time are responding now to the gospel. How can you compare temporal life to eternal? It’s great though challenging to try to comfort those who are mourning. In any case, I just received my first dose of the Moderna vaccine and I am rejoicing in my heart over it. Was I fearful? – yes, for certain. Am I guarenteed freedom from COVID by getting the vaccine? – NO. I am grateful for graces in my life. I wish that my heart was as thankful for daily life as it feels right now for the vaccine. Anyway, my current thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rob, I haven’t read Piper’s book, but absolutely, the Lord’s sovereignty is so important for His people to understand; it’s what causes me not to fear or worry. It’s fantastic that some people you’ve been praying for are, after a long time, now responding to the gospel. That illustrates one of the purposes that the Lord has in allowing this pandemic.

      As far as fear of COVID goes, it makes sense that as time goes on, people seem less fearful; so much more is known about it than before, and now we have two vaccines as well.

      Like

  3. Hi Keith, I vaguely remember the Hong Kong flu of the late 60’s. It was actually overshadowed by news about the Vietnam War and the Apollo moon landing. Still we as Christians should not be fearful but also not be reckless. Give my regards to Yolande. May the Lord bless your ministry.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: