What is God's perspective in the current crisis? What is His heart toward humanity, and His will for Christians? In this section we tackle the big questions and share with you the Biblical perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Governments have a God-given mandate to govern their citizens (Romans 13:6). While ministering on earth, Jesus acknowledged areas of life that were controlled by the government (Matthew 22:21).
As social distancing is a well-established measure to stop the spread of the coronavirus, governments have taken measures to halt large gatherings, including church worship services. In the vast majority of cases, such social distancing measures do not specially target the church and thus do not constitute a direct infringement of religious freedom.
It is prudent for pastors and all Christians to respect the suspension of large gatherings. Such a suspension is not a shutdown of the church. Believers are still meeting together and worshipping God in many ways, whether online or as families. We still have the freedom to practice their faith and we should pursue our relationship with God as vigorously in these times as ever.
Suffering has been part of the human condition since the fall of Adam and Eve. The Bible records numerous instances in which God’s faithful people endured all kinds of suffering.
Although suffering is a part of the human condition, God is not indifferent to it. When Jesus walked this earth, he had compassion on the suffering crowd (Matthew 9:36). And the Apostle Paul describes how God is full of compassion and offers us comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). Ultimately, Jesus himself suffered to the point of death because of his love for this world. He redeemed the world and provided a way of salvation so that we do not need to suffer forever.
Scripture also reminds us that our present suffering is incomparable to the future glory God has prepared for us (Romans 8:18) and that in all things God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:18).
In one sense, we have been living in the last days since the time of Jesus. Events described in Luke 21:10 have happened throughout history. COVID-19 is not a defining event, but one that reminds us that the end is near. Jesus clearly said that we would not know when exactly the end times will come (Matthew 24:36). Our task is to “keep watch” and “be ready” (Matthew 24:42, 44).
This involves living as children of light, being imitators of God, and living a life of love (Ephesians 5:1). God calls us to “continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of” (2 Timothy 3:14). This includes the charge to “preach the word, be prepared, correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).
As followers of Jesus, Christians have Jesus as their high priest, interceding for them in heaven. Christians can always approach God boldly with their needs (Hebrews 4:16), including physical health. However, this does not mean that physical healing is always manifested in the lives of believers on earth. Both the Old and New Testaments record instances of people of God, such as Paul, who experienced various afflictions. As Paul testified, God’s grace was sufficient for him and God’s power was made perfect in his weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Christians, as God’s ambassadors, are given to the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). Christians undertake this ministry as jars of clay that are physically weak yet filled with the power of God (2 Corinthians 4:7). As jars of clay, Christians can “waste away” (2 Corinthians 4:16). Our weakness and mortality clearly display that the all-surpassing redemptive power that is in us comes from God (2 Cor 4:7, 11).
While God remains the refuge and fortress of Christians (Psalm 91:2), a Christian’s life is also “fleeting,” described as a “breath” (Psalm 38:4–5).
The gospel story is one where God the Father sent his Son to redeem this world. In turn, Jesus sent his people to the world, to tell of his redemptive power. His people continue to be sent today. They are involved in different levels of the management of this pandemic crisis. For example, they are involved in various acts of mercy done by Christians. This has included the direct medical support to the sick as well as the provision of food and other emergency supplies to those who are in economic need.
In addition, the pandemic and subsequent “shutdown” across countries presents itself as a good opportunity to reflect deeper on one’s life. In the Old Testament, Israel repeatedly turned back to God only when crisis situations brought them to their knees. This pandemic is providing many people with an opportunity to realize their need and turn to God. There have been numerous stories of how churches across the globe have united to pray together or to join forces in responding to this crisis.
The Church is the representation of Christ to the world. As such, it should shine before men such that they see its good deeds and praise our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16). This light continues during this pandemic. Church leaders, pastors and ministers should keep their faith, continue their work, and adjust their activities according to the demands of the pandemic. This may include reverting to house churches or using social and digital media to connect and shepherd the people of God. Finally, the Church and all its members should be “prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope” (1 Peter 3:15).
The believers are members of the Church (1 Corinthians 12:27), the Body of Christ (Romans 12:4-8). As dearly loved children, we should seek to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1), providing compassion, wisdom and light wherever we are.
WEA Secretary General Bishop Efraim Tendero provided this list of practical ways to love our neighbor:
1. Protect your own health. Your ability to help others will be greatly limited if you become ill or have to self-isolate.
2. Maintain strict social distancing and encourage others to do the same. We cannot defeat the coronavirus until people stop transmitting it.
3. Don’t hoard supplies and thus deprive others of what they need. Instead, offer what you have to others.
4. Communicate only truthful and verified information.
5. Contact others—especially the elderly or those who are isolated—frequently by phone, text, or e-mail to encourage them and check on how they are doing.
6. Where permitted, go to the market to get necessary items for those who can’t travel.
7. Where government or private entities distribute food, inform people of how to obtain it, or advise the authorities of people in need who may have been overlooked.
8. Volunteer your time and abilities, especially if you have skills that can support healthcare delivery.
9. Give a gift of food or money to those around you who are most needy.
10. Offer to pray for your neighbors. It can mean a lot in this time of peril.
As people of God, our actions bear witness to Jesus Christ. We currently live in a time of uncertainty, confusion, loneliness and fear of the unknown. Many questions regarding the cause, spread, cure and response of the coronavirus remain unanswered. This can lead to the birth of many conspiracy theories. The way we respond to these different theories reflects our witness to Christ.
We, created beings, have limited knowledge that can be enlarged with collective research. Only the creator God is almighty and all-knowing. The general knowledge today is based on the collective knowledge of scientists, healthcare professionals and government agencies. In contrast, on what basis is the knowledge of conspiracy theories founded on? How do the theories match up with existing information?
We pray for truth to see the light. As creatures on this planet, we do not have monopoly on what is absolutely right or wrong. When we pray, we acknowledge that only God knows all things and will reveal these things in His time. We should therefore hold loosely to different theories, recognizing the provisionary nature of our knowledge. Often conspiracy theories pose themselves as the absolute. They are well communicated, appealing to one’s emotions or through the credibility of the speaker, persuading the receiver of its validity.
We should search our hearts in the way we respond to these different theories. As Christians, we are promised the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit reminds us of God’s daily presence with us in this challenging time, as well as his guidance and wise counsel. With the Holy Spirit’s counsel, we can discern if our actions are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.
Finally, we can be divided with our opinions but united in our response. With a crisis of this scale, it is possible that we might not all agree what this pandemic means eschatologically, or whether our governments are credible or not. However, we can all agree and stand united in our response to this crisis as the hands and feet of Christ. We can continue in the work of bringing the gospel to all people, especially in a difficult time like this.
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