The Coronavirus, specifically COVID-19, has affected nearly all of us in some way. It has dominated the news in the U.S. and around the world for the last several weeks. Travel has been restricted. Schools and universities have postponed classes. The NBA, NHL, and MLB have cancelled or suspended play. The same is true with the March Madness basketball tournament, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and other sporting events. Other events such as SXSW have been cancelled. Some businesses have closed. Some cities look like ghost towns. Shelves in grocery stores are empty, as many hoard in fear of what may happen, while others buy up stock and try to resell at substantial markup. The Dow Jones Industrial has fallen nearly 30% YTD. I have never seen anything quite like this.
What I Plan To Do
1. I plan to continue to trust God. He is ultimately in control. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?… For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angel nor principalities nor powers, nor things to come, nor height, nor death, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:28, 35, 38-39).
2. I plan not to fear. The words “fear not” or “be not afraid” occur frequently in the Bible (KJV: 74 – fear not; 29 – be not afraid). A Christian does not need to panic or live in fear. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Yes, the disease is real. It can kill. However, the Christian can say, “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, Where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55); and even, “to depart and be with Christ… is far better” (Philippians 1:23).
3. I plan to be prudent. I will wash my hands, frequently. I will use hand sanitizer, when possible. I will go less to public places. “A prudent man foresees evil (danger,. ESV) and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished (suffer for it, ESV)” (Proverbs 22:3; 27:12). Does this refer to sin, or dangers in life more generally? Many think the latter. The ESV Study Bible comments on Proverbs 27:12, “It takes wisdom to distinguish between rightful courage and foolish walking in danger.” The Mosaic Law set forth sanitation laws [waste disposal (Deut. 23:12-14); bodily discharge (Lev. 15); contact with dead bodies (Lev. 11:24-28, 39-40; Num. 19:11-ff); food and water safety (Lev. 11:34-36; 15:12); isolation of the diseased (Lev. 13-14; Num. 5:1-4); things touched by the diseased (Lev. 15:12)].
4. I plan to live the Christian life. I plan to live a life which magnifies Christ (Philippians 1:20), and to help others, especially spiritually (Philippians 1:21-24).
Consider the following quotations: (a) Marcus Aurelius (121-180 A.D.) said, “It is not death that man should fear, but he should fear not beginning to live.” We have one life. Let us redeem the time (Ephesians 5:15-16; Colossians 4:5).
(b) In 1527, the Bubonic Plague was found in Wittenburg. Martin Luther said this in a letter to Johann Hess, “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 not to become contaminated and this perchance infect and pollute other… If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 43, p. 119-138 from Roy Askin, Read Luther’s Letter About Plague, lcms.org). This is good advice.
(c) C.S. Lewis wrote, “On Living in an Atomic Age,” in 1948. “In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railroad accidents, an age of motor accidents.’ In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways… If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things – praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends… not huddled together like frightened sheep thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds” (Matt Smethurst, C.S. Lewis on the Coronavirus, thegospelcoalition.org). In the words of Tim McGraw, let us live like we are dying. We will all die of something (unless we happen to be alive when the Lord returns).
5. I plan to appreciate each moment. There are no assurances of tomorrow (James 4:13-14).
6. I plan to use changes of normal routine for good. This is an opportunity to spend more time with family. This is an opportunity to spend more time in prayer and Bible study. This is an opportunity to passionately urge others to get their lives right with God. Death is coming to all.
What Should Churches Do?
1. Should we assemble or not? (a) If you have reason to believe that you are or might be infected, please keep yourself from the church assemblies (Lev. 13-14; Num. 5:1-4). However, let us know if you need help in your sickness (James 5:14). (b) If you are elderly, feeble, or compromised immunity, have respiratory problems, or are at high risk of contracting this disease or passing it on to others no one will judge you for staying home for the time being. This is not, in my judgment, forsaking the assembly (Hebrews 10:25) (c) Some churches have modified their numbers of meetings each week. Some have cancelled services altogether. There are no plans to do so where I preach at this time. I plan to continue to be there as long as I am healthy and meet with other saints who desire to assemble (though we may be few in number). Jesus died for me. I want to honor him. The early church members, at times, met in peril of life. Some still do in various places today. I have met them. I will not stay away simply because I might get sick. I don’t stay away each flu season. However, I am speaking as a healthy person with a strong immune system, and with no highly vulnerable person in my home (not all are in this situation).
2. Let us care for those in need. Some will need help. For example – an elderly person, wanting to avoid public places, may need help getting groceries. Some may need financial help. This will hit some very hard. Let us be helpful, when and where we can (Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 2:44-45; 4:32; 6:1-7; Galatians 2:10; 6:10; 1 John 3:16-18).
3. Let us have more daily contact, especially with those who cannot attend. Let us make phone calls, send texts, and emails even if personal visits are ill advised. Let us “exhort one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13).
Oh how I wished that people cared as much for the eternal as they do the temporal. The Coronavirus will infect a certain percentage of humanity, and it will kill a much smaller percentage of humanity. People are concerned. People want to be tested. Let me tell you about another disease. This disease has infect nearly 100% of the human population since Adam and Eve. It will kill the vast majority of those infected. I am talking about sin (Romans 3:23; 6:23). [No, one does not catch this disease from others as one does the flu and the Coronavirus. I am simply using the term infection accommodative.] However, how many even want to test themselves to see if they are infected? Many do not have enough concern to soberly examine themselves from the scriptures. Many will not agree to a Bible study. Some postpone such for a more convenient season. There is a remedy for this disease. However, how many feel any need for urgency? Many feel no sense of urgency to accept the remedy. Even though, they may know that they are in sin. They may plan to respond one day, but not today. Yet, this disease is not just deadly; it has eternal consequences!