By Dr. John Hill
I am neither a medical professional nor an epidemiologist, and I am certainly not an expert on the spread of disease around the world. Therefore, I will leave those points of fact to the professionals in their fields to take care of us, and plan a course of action to limit the spread of disease. However, it is within my ability to consider our current health crisis from a biblical and spiritual perspective. So, if I were a preacher and practitioner of spiritual health, what would I say to our readers? This is a challenging time to be alive! At the time of my writing, I just returned from fourteen days in the United Kingdom amid what is known as the “coronavirus pandemic.” I will admit, I have some skepticism about how this pandemic is being played out in the media, and I’m bothered by the unfortunate toll it is taking on individuals, governments, and the work of the Church of Jesus Christ. But, all hope is not lost! While we protect ourselves from the spread of disease that is plaguing our world, we cannot allow our spiritual growth and identity as God’s people to descend into fear-mongering. This is an opportunity for the Church to shine light into darkness while people are looking for hope! Now is the best time to preach harder, shine brighter, and serve longer than we have had the opportunity in recent years. We were prepared by faith in Christ Jesus, for such a time as this! Coronavirus affects every place in our world and has put a massive burden on the lives of every human being. Every person has a claim on your kind offices as people of faith! You must not lose hope! You must not lose faith! You must not quarantine the Gospel of Jesus! After talking with a few colleagues from a variety of denominations, I used the eight hours of my flight to reflect on what I see emulating from this disease. While we cannot cure the virus, we can treat the symptoms, and some of the symptoms affect our spiritual health. Here are a few suggestions on how to protect your spirit from COVID-19. 1. COVID-19 causes us to blame others and swell with arrogant pride. Isn’t it foolish? Democrats are blaming Republicans. Trump is blaming Pelosi. States blaming the Federal government. The US blaming China. China is blaming US military personnel. While my research indicates COVID-19 did originate in Asian counties, it does no good to blame anybody. It will not fix what is already in motion. Christians must—must—avoid the trap set by the media. We must rise above the pettiness and prove how our Christian faith calls us to serve all humanity. Recall the “Good Samaritan.” Believers can not pass by on the other side of the road and hope someone else will fix it. Those “others” will be the atheists and agnostics, and they will point to the hypocrisy of the Christian faith. We must care about the suffering of the world, and humble ourselves in service to all of God’s children just like Jesus Christ. 2. COVID-19 makes people afraid. The natural response to this kind of thing is fear. We head to the store to buy milk, bread, and…toilet paper? No rationale behind it, but we must do something. We might as well stock up. Granted, I have no idea what toilet paper will do in this pandemic, but I’m glad you have what you need. Our kids are not going to school, food and supplies are diminishing, it is a scary time. They are watching us. They are taking their cues from our reactions. Christians must do two things—recognize this is a scary time and hold the folks we love close. We should not diminish the fact this is worrisome, but a healthy level of fear challenges us to act decisively and swiftly. Second, we must not allow fear to erode our sense of hope in Christ Jesus. Regardless of the outcome, Christ is unchanging and always faithful. We should not live in fear; God holds tomorrow. “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought of the things of itself” (Matthew 6:34a). Do not allow fear to hinder your excellent service to others. Do not let a virus break your fellowship with others. It just means we must do it differently. Pick up the phone and check on the shut-ins. Call that relative you have intended to call for months. Send that card you meant to send. Be not afraid! 3. COVID-19 makes people evil. Tensions are strained. We can see how people can be in a time of mass hysteria. We are foolish if we think we can wall ourselves off from the world around us in an effort to make us feel safe. While others were buying up the toilet paper, others are buying bullets. What are we becoming? Evil tells us to let the old and the sick die off. They may wonder what difference it makes if a bunch of foreigners or older people die. They may prefer to rid the world of a few dark places, and some swear this is the Will of God. These things are of the Evil One, and not of God. The Church of Jesus Christ exists to fight every appearance of evil in the world. We were meant to infect the world in pandemic proportions with the Gospel of Jesus. We should inoculate the world against the evil schemes of man. We are not alone in this, and we must cooperate with others to prevent and exterminate evil intentions to exploit the impoverished, elderly, or infirmed. The best way for the Church to respond is with humility, generosity, justice, and grace. 4. COVID-19 makes us realize how tired we really are. One of the Great Commandments is to honor the sabbath day and keep it holy. Most Christians do this by attending worship on Sunday, but we miss the central idea of what it means to rest. We feel taking a break to mean running down to the beach or taking a trip to the mountains, or just sleeping in a little one day. Sabbath-keeping is much more profound. Here in the season of Lent, we reflect on our sins and our need for salvation. We practice repentance and meditate on Christ’s gift of life on the cross. Perhaps we have been too busy for that kind of thing? Maybe we haven’t had the time to read the Scripture as we had hoped? Maybe we haven’t had the time to pray as we had expected? Spend this quarantine resting, sitting with family, read the scripture, and pray for the welfare of the city where you live. Sabbath, like Lent, is about renewal. Perhaps the Church needs this time of prayer and reflection to find spiritual revival. Now is the time to reflect on the business you have with God. Spend time taking care of that important business so that you can find spiritual renewal. COVID-19 will not destroy us. It will hinder us and frustrate our efforts. Yet, it will not defeat us. No weapon, or disease, formed against us will prosper! Not one thing shall separate us from the Love of God! Always remember, every good and perfect gift is from God—and there is nothing good nor perfect about COVID-19.