Facing the COVID-19 outbreak, what sort of attitude should our Christians have? In this passage, ten suggestions will be given from the perspective of Biblical ethics.
Be prudent and do not fear. No doubt God the Almighty is capable of saving us from any harm (Psa. 91). He also bestows us with common knowledge to respect the God-made laws. God keeps us from any danger and we keep his words. We should not only be faithful but also be prudent and fearless. What we need to do is to fulfil our duties, and leave the rest to God with a believing heart -- God will give grace to those who trust Him.
Be optimistic but never lose heart. Whatever your situation is, living in virus-stricken areas or unfortunately affected by the virus, please remember to look on the bright side and never give up. With a positive mind, we save for a rainy day. The pandemic will end. Life will be back to normal. Social order will be restored. And most importantly, His grace is abundant.
Have some leisure time but not slack off. On the one hand, strike a balance between work and rest to be physically and mentally healthy. On the other hand, manage to adjust oneself in the current situation. Loosen up but not be over relaxed. If your work has to be suspended due to the pandemic, you can avail yourself of this chance to grasp some new skills, do some spiritual practice, etc. Rather than slack off, you should make use of the time to do something.
Separated physically but not emotionally. The COVID-19 outbreak occurred, so congregational activities have been suspended for safety concerns. Nevertheless, it cannot stop our fellowship with one another. We are separated in person but not in thought (1 Thess. 2:17). God is pleased to see us communicating and praying for one another through social media websites or apps (i.e. WeChat) or using phones during these times.
Be discerning but not credulous. Today information spreads fast owing to advanced social media techniques. However, it also becomes easier to get overwhelmed by misinformation involving sensational fake news, illegal fundraising, etc. These are often in the disguise of news reports. We need to discern between right and wrong, and don’t believe rumors or fall into traps for fear that our fear or generosity makes us become vulnerable targets.
Pray for others rather than criticize. Recently we’ve heard critics over the illegal wildlife trade, ten-thousand people long table banquet, etc. Be reflective rather than complain endlessly. Facing up to the problems and tackling them are more urgent. What’s done is done, and we should pray rather than reprimand endlessly. Let us pray for the highly placed, medical workers, scientific researchers, and patients. We beg His mercy to give the highly placed with loyalty and humility, medical workers with strength, scientific researchers with intelligence and inspiration, and patients with cure and comfort.
Empathy but not judgement. Many may wonder if the pandemic is the price of sins. Indeed, you can blame sins for the source of all miseries -- the sin of the first man causes misery. But we should also listen to the exhortation of Jesus. “‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned’. Said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’” (John 9:3) The works of God could be revealed in anything. Be empathetic and let His works be made manifest. Don’t judge to make the situation even worse.
Confession but no accusation. We do need to introspect and repent. But we should confess our sins and not criticize others. In any case, introspection, confession and accountability are prerequisites for individuals and communities alike. Remember it’s none of our business to ask others to confess their sins or repent. Bible says, “Let no one bring a charge; let no one accuse another.” (Hos. 4:4) We only need to fulfil the responsibilities of our own.
Caring but not apathetic. Apathy is as awful as judgement and accusation. Neither should we look on at someone’s trouble with indifference, nor adopt a wait-and-see attitude toward the disasters. Instead, “grieve over the ruin of Joseph.” (Amos 6:6) Fulfil the duties and help others with a caring heart as much as we can.
Keep watch and not fall asleep. Spiritual connotations are behind incidents that are well worth contemplating. Jesus told us to keep alert so that we would not fall into temptation (Matt. 26:41). He rebuked the Pharisees who knew how to interpret the appearance of the sky but can’t interpret the signs of the times (Matt. 16:3; Luk. 12:56). When disasters come, we need to clarify God’s purposes and commandments, keep watch, get prepared, be patient and wait for Him.
What’s written in the Bible has already told us: “but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen.” (Matt. 24:6) “Do not tremble. Do not be afraid.” (Isa. 44:8) Have faith in God. The pandemic will end. His purpose will be finished. Blessings and joy from Him are destined to come.
Written by Zhang Yuanlai. Published in Tianfeng (Vol. 483), Mar. 2020.