Responding to Covid-19
By Pastor-Elder Stuart Morgan
19 Feb 2020
Dear brothers and sisters,
With the outbreak of Covid-19 and the infection reaching Singapore, we want to help us all think in a Christian way about how we should respond both as individuals within our community and as a church. People all around us are understandably fearful and panicking, but as Christians our faith in our great God, who was and is and is to come (Rev 1:4), should strengthen us to live and speak in a radically different way. To help us do that here are some thoughts, at the end of which are some practical steps.
Faith in our Heavenly Father
Faced with the possibility of sickness and death God says to us: ‘The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge’ (Ps 18:2). One of the things that makes the virus so terrifying for many is that we cannot ultimately control whether we get it or not; this smashes the illusion of having control over our families’ lives. But gloriously there is one who is in total and complete control and, as Christians, He is our sovereign Heavenly Father. Jesus tells us, ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs on your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows’ (Matt 10:29-31). God decides when a birds falls from the sky and dies and as our Father He cares for us immensely: ‘If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father, who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!’ (Matt 7:11). God our heavenly Father is in control of absolutely everything, even the roll of a dice (Prov 16:33), everything happens according to His plan, and as our Father He loves us (1 John 4:10). Given this, Calvin, whose children all died in infancy, said, ‘Therefore the Christian heart, since it has been thoroughly persuaded that all things happen by God’s plan, and that nothing takes place by chance, will ever look to him as the principal cause of things, yet will give attention to the secondary causes in their proper place.’ God is the principal cause; if something happens He permits it to happen. Secondary causes, like coming into contact with an infected person and our preventative actions, need to be put in their proper place. Crucially Calvin says, ‘But his confidence will not so rely upon outward supports (like face masks) as to place assurance in them if they are present, or, if they are lacking, to tremble as if left destitute.’ To paraphrase Psalm 20:7: Some trust in face masks and some in hand sanitiser, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. So, brothers and sisters, when fear and worry rise up within, look to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort’ (2 Cor 1:3).
God may allow the virus to spread, some of us may be infected, but our Father is in control and He is working out His good plan. We may not understand why things happen; Job was never told why he suffered. What we need is not a specific answer as to the “why?” but to remember who God is (Job 38-41). As Arthur Pink said, ‘Faith… endures… the hardships, and the heart-aches of life, by recognizing that all comes from the hand of Him who is too wise to err and too loving to be unkind.”
Hope in the New Creation
More than faith in who our great God is, we have hope because the God who was and is, is also the God who is to come. All suffering and death that we see around us, including this virus, is a result of humanity’s rebellion, but our God has acted in Jesus, through His death on the cross and His resurrection to new life, to deal with that suffering and death once for all (Gen 3; Rom 5:12-21, 8:18-21). Suffering, sickness and death tell us the world is under judgement because of sin. We are not to think those who suffer are worse than other people because they are infected, but all are to hear the call to repent and turn to God. Suffering and death tell us that God is angry at mankind’s rebellion and is a little picture designed to point to ultimate judgement (Lk 13:1-5). Into that predicament Jesus came, lived a sinless life and took the judgement we deserve (Isa 53:4-6). As a result Christians are no longer under God’s wrath but have been reconciled to God (Rom 5:1-5) and will be welcomed into the New Creation, where ‘God himself… will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away (Rev 21:3b-4).
What does this have to do with the Covid-19? At least two key things, first as believers through fear, worry and even loss we can sing, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your string?’ (1 Cor 15:54b-55). We can do that because Jesus has been raised from the dead to live forever in a perfect world and all those who trust in him will likewise be raised (1 Cor 15). Death is not the final word; in the separation of death believers await the ultimate reunion celebration. Second it is the hope we can share: there is a danger that the prospect of sickness and death will shorten our vision and fix our eyes on the here and now, but the Bible’s teaching should cause us to look past the Covid-19 to man’s ultimate end in either the New Creation or Hell. To people all around us fearful and without hope in the world, people who are thinking about death, we have the one true answer, and we have the truly good news of the death of death in the resurrection of Jesus.
Love for Neighbour
Finally because we know who God is, our heavenly Father, and because of our hope in the New Creation, we can give ourselves to selfless love for others, rather than being turned in on ourselves. That will mean obvious things like not selfishly hoarding masks, so that people who actually need them end up going without, nor profiteering from masks, nor thoughtlessly spreading news without first checking if it is reliable.
Until such time as the government tells us it is unsafe to do so, we will love one another by gathering at church, CG, RR, Playgroup etc. and by ‘consider(ing) how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near’ (Heb 10:24). If it is not wise for certain people to be with us (see below) we will think about how we can support, encourage and serve them. Love will also look like praying for healthcare workers at the forefront of what is happening, for government agencies as they make decisions for the country, for victims and their families here in Singapore, China and around the world.