Coronavirus versus the Church

Ever since the news of the coronavirus pandemic broke, I have heard a lot of voices in the public area. First, there is the World Health Organization, giving us live updates as more and more countries report the number of cases. WHO also created handy infographics on the symptoms, what to do you if you suspect you have it, and ways to prevent being infected.

The next voices I heard are from our President and Vice President, all urging calm, and minority Senate leaders accusing them of downplaying fears prematurely. Not cool; in times of crisis, we need unity, not digs at our political opponents. The US government is restricting travels, approving an emergency spending measure, and making sure that the insurance companies do not raise rates or jack up premiums just to test a person. Furthermore, state and local officials are doing their best.

Then my company’s HR department has closed our Chinese and Italian offices, restricted all non-critical business travels, and doubled the efforts to provide a clean and healthy environment. Starting next week, we are encouraged to work from home.

Of course, then the political satirists get involved. I laughed at Babylon Bee’s articles – God flooding the world with hand sanitizers, updated rules on personal physical contact. Left, right – just laugh. Perhaps that’s the best medicine.

Then I asked myself. Whose voice have I not heard from? Who has been silent? The church. Why are Christians not speaking out more?

Many churches are canceling their services all together this week and maybe for the rest of this month. They want to make sure that they are not part of the problem of spreading germs but to help contain it. I get that.

However, my dad pointed out this morning that the church ought to be a place of refuge and sanctuary. It is not just a physical place, like the monasteries and churches, but spiritual.

If you know the story of the “new” Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London, UK, you’ll recall that it was commissioned in 1669, 3 years after the Great Fire of London in 1666. Although that fire was devastating, it had the unintended consequence of ending the Great Plague of London, 1665-1666. The magnificent building was finished in 1697. It survived World War 2 when German bombs hit London during the Blitz in 1940.

I bring this up because the church has survived multiple plagues and wars. There was a plague in 150s AD, 250s AD, 540s AD, the infamous Black Death of 1347-50, the London Plague in 1665 which I mentioned earlier, and in recent years, the Spanish Flu in 1919-20. Then there was SARS in 2003. The church has survived the French Revolution where Voltaire declared the death of the church (we’re still here, Voltaire’s not), the Communist Revolution, Nietzsche’s nihilism (Nietzsche’s dead, God is very much alive), and Islamic terrorism.

So what about this coronavirus? What can the church do? At my old church, there were plenty of doctors and nurses there. They have plenty of solid medicine advice to give out. That’s not my main point. Rather, the church ought to be another voice of calm. We have a simple message that a four year old can understand while a forty year old can take comfort in.

  1. This is not the world God intended for us to live in. When we read the news of wars, famine, disease, and dictatorships, it’s very easy to question whether there is a God, or whether He is good, or knows what he is doing. Yet, there IS a good God who does know what he is doing and actually has our best interests at heart. It’s just that we humans messed it up.
  2. There is a better world coming. Much better. In the book of Revelations, God says he will make a new heavens and a new earth. Think of all the beautiful places in nature. Maybe Milford Sound in New Zealand, or the Grand Canyon. Those are only a foreshadow of the world to come.
  3. Or more accurately, God is restoring the heavens and earth to the rightful state. I love shows like Fixer Upper where Chip and Jo Gaines turn old, beat up houses for their clients into something out of a home design magazine. In this new world, no disease, no decay, no death.

In his email to the church, my pastor wrote:

I want to stress that the present culture of fear, which appears to hold increasing power over our society, should not guide us as believers. Psalm 46:1-2 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…”

The same Psalm ends:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

As a Christian, wherever we are – at home, at work, in the ER – the Lord Almighty is with us! We can rejoice, even as we weather this story.

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