Nothing has captured more attention in the news lately than the outbreak of the coronavirus. It has been and probably will continue to be for some time the lead story on every news broadcast. The consequences of the virus have been enormous. The stock market has been on a roller coaster ride. Sporting events have been contested without an audience. Stores have run out of hand soap and toilet paper. Fear has gripped the world in response to this sickness. Some have claimed that it is all because of media hype. Therefore, it is not necessary for anyone to become alarmed; it will all pass over. Others, at the opposite end of the panic spectrum have predicted this to be apocalyptic in nature, bringing on the end times and the end of civilization. How should a Christian respond?
To begin, both extremes of the above responses are wrong. Four thousand people have already died from this virus. For them it certainly was not a media hype. That number is mostly comprised of those living in China. But now that the virus has spread beyond China’s borders it will continue to increase rapidly. Thousands upon thousands have also become ill from it without it being fatal to them. There is no known cure for those who become infected and there is no inoculation that can keep anyone from contracting the virus. The threat is real. On the other hand, there is no reason to believe that the end of time hinges upon finding a cure for the virus. Biblical prophecy necessitates at least 1007 years of history that is yet future. The number of new cases of the virus in China also seems to be diminishing each day, indicating that the virus has run its course there and hopefully will soon in the rest of the world.
The issue boils down to a question of whether a believer in Jesus Christ should be afraid to go about living in the world and if so, to what degree. It is interesting that there are about twice as many verses in the New Testament that command a believer to fear something (not even counting those that command a fear of God) against those that command a believer not to fear something. For example, Joseph was told by the angel Gabriel not to fear to take Mary to be his wife (Matthew 1:20). But the apostle Paul tells the Philippians to, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12) In both of these verses the word that is translated “fear” is the Greek noun phōbos or the verb phōbeō. It is the word from which we get our English word “phobia”. The word can mean a terror or dread of something or when used in regards to a person, a reverential respect.
In the Old Testament, the children of Israel were rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem under the leadership of Nehemiah. Sandballat and Tobiah, along with the Arabians, Ammonites, and the Ashdodites conspired to fight against Israel. The threat was real. Nehemiah records, “Nevertheless we made our prayer unto God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them.” (Nehemiah 4:9) Not only did Nehemiah trust God by praying about the situation but he did that which was humanly responsible by setting a watch to fight if necessary. Doing what is humanly responsible does not indicate a lack of faith, but not doing what is spiritually necessary, does.
Here are my suggestions on how to fearfully and faithfully deal with the coronavirus.
- Search diligently for reliable information regarding the danger of infection. Do not be tied to one news source. The apostle Paul told the Corinthians that in the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses every word should be established.
- Think rationally as to how to apply that knowledge. Some, not wanting to shake another’s hand have opted for the fist bump. Hello! You’re still touching each other’s hand.
- Pray fervently that God will provide protection beyond what is humanly possible. God can do that!
- Accomplish faithfully whatever is in the will of God for you today. Practically everyone reading this will get into a car and go somewhere either today or in the very near future. Yet in the United States alone, over a 1,000 people are killed every day in automobile accidents which is about 22 times greater than those who have died daily worldwide since the outbreak of the coronavirus. If we have little or no fear in travelling in a car to accomplish the will of God, neither should we in any other activity.