Dr. Phil: Are we as Christians any different than others in a Pandemic? Perhaps a bit of an odd questions, but I was thinking about this as I have been following the news coverage and having to adjust our travel plans and ministry to this new reality.
I like the quote I heard about what Martin Luther wrote in the early 1500s as he was dealing with how to respond to the Bubonic Plaque. During that time, the illness is said to have killed up to 60% of the European population. Writing to a colleague he says, I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order to not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. . . If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.
Two extremes as I see it. One, not doing what we can and acting foolishly. I read an online article from an African paper reporting how the president of an African country believed that the Corona virus could not live in the church. Though this “spiritual” approach seems admirable on one hand, it does not seem to reflect the wisdom we see from Luther’s approach. My guess is that, until Jesus’ Kingdom comes and his will is being done on earth as in heaven, it will rain on the just and the unjust; living in a fallen world we as Christians are not immune from the effects of sickness and sin.
A second extreme is that we can chose to be paralyzed by fear. Wall to wall media coverage and having the possibility of tracking the global numbers by the second is like gasoline for fear. However, regardless of the circumstance, fear is a choice and we don’t have to succumb to it. 2 Tim 1:7 encourages us that He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, discipline and a sound mind. Times like this require believer’s to have a sound, steady mind. If our focus is correct, we can have access to that peace that passes even our understanding (and circumstances).
I like the fact that in the face of death all around him, Luther used wisdom to do what he could do (for his time) and yet did not give in to fear (which must have been a challenge as millions of bodies began stacking up). This necessitates that we learn to feed ourselves in the Word and gain all we need from Christ who lives within us. Of course, in addition to the illness there is also the economic fallout that we have yet to see the full effects. For all of us this will also be an opportunity to exercise our trust in God for our daily bread as well as our future security.
So, back to my original question, Are we different? Maybe the answer is, Yes and no. In some ways we as believers are the same – we are not magically immune – but at the same time we can be different. In wisdom we can live without giving in to fear. Regardless of the circumstances we can focus on Christ and have his peace within. Regardless of how bad things get, this will enable us to be that strength to those around us as we share the hope that lies within us.