I have never, in my history of being a pastor, taken a sweeping stance on a social issue from the pulpit.
I’ve never given my opinion about candidates, politics, or policy in the US government to the members of my congregation. I respect the position and my church family’s trust too much to go down that path. Instead, I focus on scripture.
So in the same spirit, I want to talk about the new coronavirus and what it means to us as Christians. Not what it means politically, or what I think about the media’s handling of it, but our responsibility as Christians. And quite frankly, through a scriptural lens, we’re missing the mark – and a great opportunity. Here’s what I mean.
Make up Your Mind not to Worry
I won’t summarize all of Luke 21:7-18 here, but I do encourage you to read it in entirety. For our purposes, here are the parts I want to zero in on: “‘Teacher,’ they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?’ He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.’”
Jesus continued: “‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven… But make up your mind not to worry… For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict… But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life.’”
This same sentiment is echoed in 2nd Timothy 1:7: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
I’m not here to debate the coronavirus’ effects with you, or to talk about whether or not it’s more powerful than the normal flu. What I’m here to tell you is this: Scripture tells us exactly how we should act in a time like this. If we’re fearful, it didn’t come from our Father in heaven. And if it didn’t come from our Father in heaven, it came from the enemy who came to steal, kill and crush us.
Missing an Opportunity
So when I look at what God’s Word tells us, it becomes clear we’re missing a great opportunity. Perhaps the greatest opportunity we’ve had since I’ve been preaching. Through our actions and words and hoarding and panic, we’re feeding the fear – not embracing our faith.
I’m not at all insensitive to the realities of what’s going on. COVID-19 is absolutely impacting our world and our daily lives. It makes sense that people are scared, and that the world is in turmoil. But we are called to act differently than the world.
“But what if we get quarantined? What if everything shuts down? I need to get ready and protect my family.” Yes, this is logical, but I also believe it is a time to look to the words of Jesus that we have preached so openly for so many years!..Matthew 6:28-34 reads: “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’”
Be a Shelter
Scripture is clear. We have the peace that comes from God, from the spirit within us. We have our eternity secure; we’re heaven-bound. So we need to act like it. If we submit to fear, we’re messing up in a major way.
Let’s stand firm and use this opportunity to help others who are overcome by anxiety and panic. Let us open our doors and give the gifts we have to be a shelter to people in these times. As 1 Peter 4:8-11 says, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”