I’m writing this from Shanghai into the 6th week of city-wide quarantine. To add some context Shanghai has nearly 30 million people. This is just under half the population of the United Kingdom. A quarantine of this magnitude has never been seen before in human history. In itself it is an experiment.
Having said this, today, as I write this (13th of March) no new cases have been reported. Less than 700 people have been infected and 300 of them have recovered with the rest still in hospital. There have been 3 fatalities.
Right now, the virus is in Europe where numbers seem to be increasing at a rapid rate. I fear Europeans are in far graver danger than I am in China.
I say this because of the precautions and measures that have been taken and are able to be taken in a single party communist nation compared to democratic, multiparty governments.
In China schools, restaurants, businesses were shut down overnight without resistance or votes. Mandatory wearing of masks was a decision that was implemented overnight.
Due to the nature of China, people are far more compliant with rules. Often if I went to one of the few restaurants or coffee shops open, I would be one of many foreigners with no Chinese citizens in sight. Naturally, actions like this have played a huge role in minimising the ability of the virus to spread.
The actions I have mentioned can’t be implanted at home and even if they were, they would be met with far more resistance. People would go and visit their friends (something banned and enforced in china), go to restaurants in droves, and turn their noses up at the idea of wearing a mask (already rumours of “they don’t work” are prevalent”)
Overconfidence seems to be the prevalent response.
“No weapon formed against me shall prosper”
“If you drink saltwater it kills the virus”
Already governments are inhibiting the movement of people affecting their day to day lives and for good reason. Christians and unbelievers in China have died from the virus.
While you may be young, fit and without underlying health problems. See if you can answer the following WITHOUT saying no.
1. Do you know any medical or health workers?
In China the number of health workers who have contracted the virus is sad and disheartening. The Doctor who is said to have discovered the virus, died from the virus. His wife, parents and recently new-born son all contracted the virus as well.
2. Do you know any taxi drivers or public transport workers?
3. Do you know anyone with sickle cell, obesity, and or asthma?
These are at risk groups that can be “under 50”.
Overplaying the severity?
Equally, widespread panic is being seen.
Panic buying of essentials is a thing.
Anxiety attacks are on the rise
Hysteria is not uncommon. One evening, my neighbours were screaming hysterically due to the extreme stress of staying indoors for so long.
In China the quarantine has been a catalyst for a rise in domestic violence and mental breakdown cases. There is a reason solitary confinement is one of the worst punishments given to prisoners.
But equally, in reality should this be a surprise to Christians in a fallen world the is under the power of the prince of the air? (Ephesians 2, Genesis 3). Should we really be scared like the world?
With all of this said how should a Christian respond to this now pandemic?
In the face of fear Christians pray. Jesus before going to the cross prayed in Gethsemane (Matthew 25). Paul and Silas in prison ‘prayed and sand hymns’ (Acts 16). Daniel in response to a change in the law ‘prayed’ (Daniel 6). Christians in the face of danger, in the face of fear pray. If like me sometimes you wonder how to pray appropriately in a time like this you are not alone.
Luke 11 shows the disciples too were unsure how to pray. The format of the Lord’s prayer is to Adore God for WHO he is, confess our sins, fears, burdens, thank him for his provision and Supplicate him with our requests (this is commonly known as ACTS). Confessing our fears in times like this is imperative as it is a reminder to us of our need for deeper reliance on God and trust in who he says he is, and what he says he will accomplish.
Sometimes this is a simple Mark 9:23-25 cry of “help my unbelief”. Study this passage and see how Jesus’s response was careful measured and comforting.
Prayer is an opportunity for us to give our supplications to the Lord and prepare to receive his answer in faith and not grumbling. Christians in China who prayed for relief and subsequently died, did not die for lack of faith, but for it was ordained by God that they should dwell with him now.
Viruses, pandemics and the like are fertile ground for bad theology to go around. Christian, DO NOT buy into it.
2. Fight for reliance through means of grace
To have too much desire to stay on earth may show a lack of desire for heaven and a misunderstanding of the futility of this world. To have too much desire to go to heaven may shows a misunderstanding of what it means to be an instrument in the hands of the redeemer and a lack of passion to be used by God for HIS purposes.
To be too optimistic in this time would be to be insensitive and foolish, to be hopeless would be to forget our unfading hope.
With all of this being said, the Christian life is a fight. From the moment of conversion, we fight for the righteousness that we are. Fighting for righteousness looks like against sin and fighting for obedience. It is extreme and cosmic warfare. It is not for the faint hearted. The ones who are defeated historically are the ones who never fought at all (namely sin in their lives).
The Coronavirus is just an aspect of this fight.
Times like these are reminders of how our lives should look, a daily looking to God in scripture, prayer and other means of grace because our fear are quelled in him and our needs are provided by him.
3. Use the COVID-19 to explain and share the hope you have.
The Coronavirus has been provided me personally with infinite Gospel sharing opportunities. This has been and will be a time where believers around the world can share with friends, family and close ones the reason for the hope we have in a challenging time and a chance to share our assurance that God is who he says he is.
In your workplace, university and community there will be people who are struggling with fear, anxiety and overconfidence in science. Graciously, be a comforting neighbour, sympathising with their fears (or challenging their overconfidence), and maybe God will open an avenue for you to share the reason for your hope.
In the West with the high number of elderly people and people with obesity this is an opportunity for Christians to really make an impact in terms of caring for our neighbours in more practical ways.
Are there members of your church who would be helped by you delivering their shopping? Could you even go further and cook these meals for them?
Is your friend going to be bored during this time? Would sending/gifting them a book help?
Could you help clean your church building early on Saturday morning in preparation for the service? Could you help by cleaning it after?
Practically there are infinite ways that the COVID-19 virus has opened up doors and avenues to love people practically.
4. Practical Wisdom
Wisdom may dictate that you should not attend Church on Sunday. Wisdom may dictate that you refuse to go into work if instructed. Wisdom may dictate that you ‘hyper’ quarantine limiting interactions with members of your family.
But here are a few practical pointers to consider.
Christians do not act out of self-preservation but love
- Romans 15 talks of the strong, protecting the weak. All our decisions should be made from this heart posture. As such it Is also possible to persevere in attending church etc in order to serve the weak or be served. If you are young it may even be wiser for you to stay at home and protect those older and with underlying health conditions. Such a decision would be made out of love and not self-preservation.
Christians should encourage others to prepare and respond to trouble not to worry about it
- Jesus constantly reminded his followers that the day of his death, their biggest fear, was coming and it ultimately came. In John 16 one of his final words he warns that they will face ‘tribulation’ but not to ‘fear as he has overcome the world.’ The greatest fear any of us should have is a life without Christ. This isn’t true if you have repented and believed and thus ultimately as we face ‘tribulation’ we can do so knowing that biggest issues, our sin, has been dealt with.
Christians ultimately trust God whatever he ordains
- In conclusion, Christians are able to turn and say to God that “whatever my God ordains is right and that he is good.” In the end we should be able to thank God for all he has done and is doing and will do even in a challenging time like this. It may harder to praise God in times of turmoil but he is unchanging and as such so should our trust in him.
Like all decisions, we should make them prayerfully, biblically, under the guidance of church elders and in the community and network of believers. But hopefully this adds colour and direction to any thoughts one may have.