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Coronavirus: What Christians Need to Know

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Jon Sherwood

Jon Sherwood strives to treat people with respect and dignity while expressing his heartfelt beliefs about Jesus and the Christian faith. He is lead pastor of Asheville Church in North Carolina, a network of Micro Churches throughout the western Carolina region. Jon holds degrees from The University of Florida, Athens Institute of Ministry, Columbia International University, and is undergoing doctoral work at Mercer University. He is married to Brittany and has two amazing boys. Together they love the beautiful outdoors and helping people fall in love with King Jesus.

In my context, the eminent threat of the coronavirus (what the World Health Organization has deemed a world wide pandemic, and now President Trump has declared a national emergency for the United States) has caused a wide spectrum of reactions.

Everything from the visceral hoarding and stockpiling of toilet paper and other goods (so the most vulnerable in our society are made even more so because those that have, decide they need to have more), to the lackadaisical, and even skeptical, attitude that perhaps the virus isn’t even real but rather a hoax or conspiracy of some sort by the “powers that be.”

Yes, the stock markets might plummet. Yes, 401(k)s might get depleted. Yes, people might act like idiots in the line at Walmart. And, yes, millions of people could die.

But our God is a sovereign God, who sovereignly rules over the nations and the course of human history. And he is a God of love and can be trusted.

In the midst of widespread anxiety, uncertainty, fear, and panic, those of us belonging to God’s kingdom are called to be characterized by peace–a peace that transcends understanding or circumstances (Phil. 4:4-6). This includes even in the face of viruses.

This, of course, is not to make light in any way or ignore the reality of people’s suffering. This is simply to draw our minds and hearts to an eternal kingdom (Hebrews 11:16).

And in no way is this to say that we shouldn’t all do our part to help stay healthy as individuals, and as a broader community and world. (For the best thing I have seen on this, watch Dr. Finny Kuruvilla’s brief presentation: Coronavirus: How we should be thinking and responding as Christians).

We should be shrewd and wise (Matthew 10:16; Luke 16:8) as we seek to adhere to current medical and governmental agencies’ direction in how to best deal with the pandemic as a community.

But in the midst of remaining wise and prudent, we are to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). We are to choose faith over fear. And when we are faced with our own mortality Jesus teaches us to not be afraid of things that can merely kill the body, but instead to fear the one that can kill both body and soul (Matthew 10:28).

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body. . . . Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25–27).

This is not the first time something like this has happened, and this not likely going to be the last time. C.S. Lewis offered his panicking culture words of wisdom during his era of nuclear threat.

We must remember that this temporary life is not where we put our ultimate hope, and staying alive is not more important than living a life that pleases God.

In a time like this, it is imperative as Christians that we remember we are followers of the Prince of Peace, not of doomsday preppers. So please, Christians, let’s not hoard goods and commodities, emptying the shelves of our local supermarkets and grocery stores, but instead let’s look to be those that give to others and serve them–even as the world looks to survivalism and self-preservation.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:13-15).

As Christians we are called to love–to love our enemies and our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 5:44, 22:39), and to not treat people with prejudice and enmity, regardless of where they are from or what they look like.

In this moment of crisis, we must rise above our culture and not allow ourselves (or any of our brothers or sisters) to mistreat or act in any unbecoming way toward those that are from China or look like they might be. May God have mercy on our self-righteousness and haughtiness (Psalm 18:27, 101:5; Proverbs 6:16-19).

“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by a [virus], let that [virus] when it comes find us doing sensible and human things … not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about [viruses]. They may break our bodies but they need not dominate our minds.” -C.S. Lewis

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