What a week it’s been! Just a week ago we were hearing mild rumblings about the virus, planning for March Madness, and getting ready for Spring Break.  Now, all that has changed!

As of yesterday, we had to move all of our weekend services from indoors to online.  There is fear, there’s concern and there is no toilet paper!

Is this time for alarm? Is this time for panic?

I came across these great insights from a couple of friends of mine who run a campus ministry in Kentucky. Thank you, Brian Marshall and Derrick King.

As Christians, we never evaluate world events like the rest of the world. I read a Victor Hugo quote recently that I like: …”he had a strange, idiosyncratic way of looking at things. I suspect he got it from the Gospel.” 

The gospel gives us a reason to see the world in a different light. That light is precisely the light of Jesus. One of the most comforting things Jesus ever said is “In this world you will have troubles, but take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). There is no inch of the world that King Jesus does not have dominion. So how do we are Christians respond?

We respond with a sober mind. 

We tend to think of “sober” as contrasted with drunkenness, but the New Testament uses the word in the sense of being self-controlled. Have your wits about you. Don’t lose your mind. Don’t panic.

In this case, don’t make this virus a bigger deal than it is. As Americans, we may never have experienced anything like this—thanks be to God! But the rest of the world faces disease like this often. What Americans call a “health crisis” is simply everyday life in many underdeveloped countries. Further, let’s not, as Christians, compare this to persecution that Christians around the world face every day. It is a challenge, yes. It is difficult, yes. But again, let’s keep it in proper perspective and not think that our sufferings, if we even have any outside of being isolated for a while, are unheard of or torturous.

We respond in love.

One of the most remarkable stories in all of church history is how, when the black plague was sweeping through the world and killing many people in its wake, the Christians often stayed behind—not fleeing the city for their own safety—but remaining where they are in order to take care of the sick. These Christians are exemplars for courage that we can look to in times like this.

What does caring for your neighbor look like in this situation? With this virus, the exact opposite thing we should do is flock to sick people. The healthcare landscape is much different today than it was during the plague, and there are medical professionals who are taking care of the sick. Instead, we should be reducing social contact (again, the one thing we know helps prevent the spread of this virus) and washing our hands more. This may seem unnecessary to you who are healthy, but those who are vulnerable will appreciate your doing your part to reduce the spread of this disease. Those two simple acts can go a long way.

Nonetheless, we should still consider some ways we can help the sick and vulnerable. While you might stock up on groceries, don’t frantically buy out Wal-Mart. Buy what you need, but leave some Lysol wipes for the next person. You might also reach out to an elderly person and offer to bring them groceries so they don’t have to leave their house.

Rebecca Reynolds has offered some fantastic ways to love our neighbors during this outbreak.

We respond in prayer. 

Pray for those you love. Pray for the sick. Pray for medical professionals. Pray for government leaders. Pray for the weak. Pray for our world.

Here are some Scriptural Mediations on Disease:

Matthew 4:23: “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.”

Jesus heals diseases. God’s desire is not for disease and death, but for health and life. Jesus’ life and ministry are a breaking in of the Kingdom, a slice of heaven on earth—as it one day shall be in full.

2 Corinthians 12:7: “a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me”

Paul has a “thorn in the flesh.” We don’t really know what this refers to. It could be a spiritual or physical problem, but one thing is clear: it is something that weakens Paul and God doesn’t heal it. Jesus is called the “Great Physician,” and rightly so, but it’s a mistake to think that God will miraculously heal all diseases. The “health and wealth gospel” is not the gospel, but a weak distortion. If you have a thorn in your flesh, whatever it may be, you should ask God to heal it, but more importantly you should pray that it makes you look more like Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:3-5: “And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Suffering produces endurance, which produces character, which produces hope. Why does God allow suffering in his world? We don’t really know. What we do know—go read Genesis 1-3 if you’re skeptical—is that God’s design for this world is that there be no disease, suffering, or death. Evil and suffering are not God’s design, but results of the fall. But rest assured: your suffering is not in vain. God uses our sufferings for good. C. S. Lewis said: “pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” If you are suffering, ask how God might be using it to rouse you from your deafness.

Romans 8:17: “if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”

We suffer with Christ in order that we may be glorified with him. You don’t get Easter without Good Friday. You don’t get resurrection without the cross. This is not only true of Christ’s story, but our own. Scriptural is repeatedly clear: if you want to be raised with Christ, you must first suffer with him.

In short… how we respond… We act justly. We love mercy. We walk humbly.

Following Jesus isn’t always easy, but it’s not complicated.

In Christ, Rusty

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