Another Coronavirus Blog?

by Aaron

Please forgive me if you think I am hopping on the pandemic bandwagon of the Coronavirus. Everyone is talking about this (many with very different views) and it needs to be addressed from Element because we are getting lots of advice from lots of people. There was a great article on the Gospel Coalition website recently by Joe Carter where he quotes a scientific American article from Bill Hanage and Marc Lipsitch that speaks of 3 levels of information:

A. What we know to be true – where infection is, how it is spread.
B. What we think is true – interpretation of facts and transmission of those interpretations.
C. Opinions and speculation – what they call “the effects of extreme social distancing.”

Carter writes, “In talking about this issue, we should make every attempt to base our opinion on category A, be hesitant about putting too much weight on category B, and be clear when we are referring to category C.” Our goal at Element as we prayerfully make decisions and respond is to utilize the above criteria.

Whether or not the current situation is defined as an outbreak, epidemic, or pandemic will change depending on who you get your information from (different organization define pandemic differently). Shutting things completely down may work in an outbreak or epidemic stage, but during a pandemic it could hurt more people as goods and services can’t get to those who need them the most. A Gospel-centered response must assert itself in the midst of fear…which is what I want to talk about.

Believers in Jesus are living in the same level of anxiety and fear as everyone else, meaning we are sharing the response of others to what is often merely “opinions and speculation.” Please don’t misunderstand me, there are precautions that should take place (Element is starting to take some of those), but we must also be Gospel focused in whatever our response becomes. 1 John 4:18-21 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Between 250 and 270 A.D. a plague devastated the Roman Empire to the point that upwards of 5,000 people died every day (it was called the Plague of Cyprian). Eric Metaxas notes that, “The plague coincided with the first empire-wide persecution of Christians under the emperor Decius. Not surprisingly, Decius and other enemies of the Church blamed Christians for the plague.” That claim obviously wasn’t true because Christians died from it…and unlike everybody else, they cared for the victims of the plague, including their non-believing neighbors.

Throughout church history Christians have had the opposite reaction to pandemics than the rest of the world. Historically, they have run towards them to offer healing and hope amidst the fear and chaos. This is documented with the Antonine Plague, the Black Plague, and even Ebola. Rodney Stark wrote, "Christians stayed in the afflicted cities when pagan leaders, including physicians, fled.” Metaxas quotes Candida Moss, a professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Notre Dame, that an "epidemic that seemed like the end of the world actually promoted the spread of Christianity." By their actions in the face of possible death, Christians showed their neighbors that "Christianity is worth dying for."

Today we are centuries, and in some cases millennia, removed from these plagues, and yet the same truth of Christ’s rescue of us should remain preeminent in how we ultimately handle outbreaks like Covid-19. The people who are hit hardest are the elderly who cannot get out of their homes as easily as they used to. While we should be careful not to spread the virus, we should also understand that love calls us to reach out and check on those most vulnerable around us. This may look different depending on your neighborhood, and could include a myriad of things from sharing from a stockpile of toilet paper, offering to run an errand for someone, delivering a meal, or simply calling someone who may need comfort in isolation. We follow the Holy Spirit’s guiding because God’s love for us should prompt us to run toward people--even as everyone else runs away. Running toward the less fortunate confounds those in the world who think it is strictly a government’s or NGO’s job to help people. Many times governmental agencies give up just when people need help the most.

Please understand both what I am saying and not saying. Yes, take precautions, but don’t let whatever happens in this world override God’s call in our lives to love another. We are to be driven first and foremost by the Gospel and God’s intervening rescue of us. Social media can stir you up to believe all sorts of things, but like Hanage and Lipsitch say in their post, “The virus does not read news articles and doesn’t care about Twitter.” 

Let us be those who care for those around us in love and not fearful reaction.