Summary: We are officially in the middle or a Pandemic called COVID19. There is no dearth of advice for us believers about how to deal with this situation. Let us look at it from a mindset point of view.
Christianity and Adversity: Corona Virus and a Faith Based approach
One Sunday, the preacher went on for a little longer than normal. After the service, people went by the preacher, tired and exhausted. One of them went up to him and told him. “Your sermon reminded me about Peace of God and Love of God”. The preacher was very excited, that at-least some one found comfort in his sermon. So he asked him to tell him more about it and how he found Peace of God and Love of God in his sermon. “Well” the man said. “I found Peace of God in your sermon because it passed all understanding, and I found Love of God in your sermon because it endured forever.”
I am going to carefully listen to your comments today after the sermon.
We are officially in the middle of a pandemic. Corona Virus has been officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation and all of us have heard about the emergency measure being taken by several countries in the world. And rightly so. As of last night (14th March 2020) the virus has infected close to 1.5 lacs (150000) confirmed cases. More than 5500 deaths, and 135 countries affected by the disease. WHO defines a pandemic as a disease that is globally spreading, has not stabilized and no cure has been found yet. Locally we are aware that almost everything has been shut down in the past couple of days. Malls, Cinemas. Schools, Colleges etc. In several places church services are impacted in some way or the other. Elders like me are advised to stay away from church services. Even if we want to we cannot escape the scare that is driving the society today.
How do we Christians, respond to such a situation all around us?
All of know that plagues are not uncommon in the bible. God has used plagues to communicate his sovereignty several times. He has sent plague to enemies of Israel (Book of Exodus) as well as for Israelites who have disobeyed and grumbled. (Numbers 16:49 and 25:9). There are several places where He warns His people about such plagues (Leviticus 26:21 and 26:25, Deuteronomy 28:22, 2 Chronicles 7:13-14). So God has used pandemics for helping people to repent in the old testament.
The new testament paints a different picture though. Jesus Christ takes all those curses, and becomes a curse for our sins. The new testament documents Jesus as healing all kinds of sicknesses and afflictions. Apart from the several individual healing occurrences in the New testament, there are records of his healings in mass scale too (Matthew 9:35; Mark 3:10), He added to this by giving such healing powers to His disciples (Matthew 10:1 and Luke 9:1). But unfortunately, we still live in a fallen world and hence such pandemics are not completely absent from this world.
So what is our reaction to these situations? I am not going to dwell so much on the healing part, but more on the mindset part of Christianity during such adverse times. What was Jesus’s advice to us to deal with such adversities? What I find is that Jesus asks us to look at a problem from a conceptualizing perspective. Which means that one must think beyond day-to-day realities. While we must focus on day to day realities, we should be able to look beyond them and see beyond what is there today.
In John Ch 13, Jesus demonstrates the Servant Leadership act and then talks to the disciples about his own death (John 13:31-35). On hearing about his sufferings and death, , the disciples are troubled and sad. That is when Jesus turns the table around in John 14: 1-4: Let us read those comforting words. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." They are very very comforting words for us, isn’t it. But I want you for a moment to go beyond those comforting words, and see another message beyond those words. Jesus is telling the disciples to look beyond the immediate issue troubling their hearts. He is asking them to look at the big picture. He is asking them to look into the future. He is asking them to conceptualise the vision that He has for them. Jesus is asking them to dream BIG.
This is not the only time Jesus tells the disciples to do so. Let us look at another instance. Let us turn to Luke Ch 10. We have here the sending forth of seventy disciples, two by two, into different parts of the country, to preach the gospel, and to work miracles in those places which Christ himself designed to visit, to make way for his visit and ministry. Jesus empowers them to heal the sick while spreading the gospel, and gives them detailed instructions on what to do and what not to do (Lk 10: 1-16). The disciples return back triumphantly and says excitedly to the Lord (Lk 10:17) “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” I want you to pause here for a moment and think about the excitement that is there in their minds. These are ordinary men, normal workers, carpenters, fishermen etc, and they were sent out on a difficult task. They see that when they work in Jesus’ name they are able to do amazing things, things like healing the sick, things like driving out the demons. They have a reason to be excited about. They are doing wonderfully well. In today’s corporate jargon, they would be known as high performers in the organisation. But hold on.. Let us look at Jesus’ response to that excitement. Let us read Lk 10:18-20 He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." What is Jesus telling them? Hey you have achieved great things. That is because I have empowered you. He actually reaffirms this fact in John 14:12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father”. So you sure have done some great things. But do not be satisfied by these. This is nothing in comparison to what I have to offer you. I am offering you eternal life. I am offering you a permanent place where I am going. Do not rejoice because of these small achievements. Rejoice because your names are written in the book of life. That is the ultimate. Once again, Jesus is telling them to see beyond the immediate, He is asking them to see what lies ahead. He is asking them to be excited about the future. He is asking them to dream BIG.