By Chris Leeper —
Fear is rampant in the world over the coronavirus. There is so much fear of sickness and death. People are trembling, and nations are closing down to try and stop it.
Travel is being banned, and people are terrified to leave their homes. The virus seems to be growing worse, not better, and the media is making sure everyone knows it. Some are saying it is being blown out of proportion while others are saying it is worse than what is being broadcast.
It is hard to know the truth in these cases, but what is the Christian response to this virus? Most are telling us to stay out of public places, wash your hands, and work from home. That is wise, but is that the Christian response?
A Look At History
There were two significant plagues in the second and third centuries in the Roman empire. The first was the Antonine Plague of 165 – 180 AD, and the second was the Cyprian Plague of 249 – 262 AD. At the height of the first plague, 2,000 people were dying in Rome every day, and in the second plague, 5,000 people were dying in Rome every day. These were severe plagues that terrified the people. When someone caught these sicknesses, their family would run away from them and leave them for dead.
Historically these viruses are believed to be the smallpox, influenza, and filovirus (similar to the Ebola virus) though we don’t know for sure what these plagues were. However, they were very serious illnesses. Cyprian wrote the effects of the plague on the human body as this: “The intestines are shaken with a continual vomiting; the eyes are on fire with the infected blood; that in some cases the feet or some parts of the limbs are taken off by the contagion of diseased putrefaction.”
In reading the last two paragraphs, no one in their right mind would want to catch these plagues. It was a death sentence if you got these plaques and a very cruel way to die. The world at that time was running away from these plagues, even if their most precious child or spouse contracted the illness. However, what was the Christians response to these plaques? Were they afraid for their lives, did they stay away from the public in fear of catching these dreadful diseases? What was their response?
It Was EPIC!
Rodney Stark, the author of the book The Rise of Christianity, wrote, “though the plague terrified the pagans, Christians greeted the epidemic as merely schooling and testing….Even more important[ly], Christian doctrine provided a prescription for action….Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them (they also contracted the illness and) departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains.”
Cyprian wrote, “…from the weakness arising by the maiming and loss of the body, either the gait is enfeebled, or the hearing is obstructed, or the sight darkened;—is profitable as a proof of faith. What a grandeur of spirit it is to struggle with all the powers of an unshaken mind against so many onsets of devastation and death! What sublimity, to stand erect amid the desolation of the human race, and not to lie prostrate with those who have no hope in God; but rather to rejoice, and to embrace the benefit of the occasion; that in thus bravely showing forth our faith, and by suffering endured, going forward to Christ by the narrow way that Christ trod, we may receive the reward of His life and faith according to His own judgment!”
The “epidemic that seemed like the end of the world actually promoted the spread of Christianity.” By the early Christians’ actions, they showed that “Christianity is worth dying for.” (Candida Moss, a professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Notre Dame)
If This Is What The Early Christians Did, What Should Our Response Be?
First of all, let me say it should not be fear of death, or fear of getting the coronavirus. We are called to be lights to this world and to bring the hope of the good news of JESUS CHRIST and HIS Kingdom. CHRIST is the hope for all of humanity, and it is time for us to be bold and unashamed. This is an opportunity for us to shine, not to drawback, because our eternity is secured for us.
The world right now is thinking about death, and we have the answer to their struggle. Our hope is in CHRIST and in an eternity with HIM forever. We know that there is no more sickness, pain, or struggles in heaven. Even now, GOD has provided for all of our needs according to HIS riches and glory. The death of JESUS CHRIST, HIS resurrection, and salvation has provided abundantly for us in this life and in eternity.
The problem is that we are too focused on the issues of this world instead of the promises of GOD and what HE has done for us through salvation. What if this coronavirus is actually a precursor, and opportunity, for a global revival where people are saved and nations are transformed by the power of GOD?
Let us take note of history: What did the Christians know then that we have possibly forgotten today? What was their hope that gave them the strength to stand in the midst of a plague, knowing the high probability that they too would catch this disease? They cared for the sick, they preach the good news of JESUS, and they love their neighbors even unto death.
It is interesting to note that when people abandoned those who caught the plague, there was a 30% mortality rate, but when Christians served the sick and cared for them, there was only a 10% mortality rate. Also, most of the sick who survived, and their families, came to the LORD through the service and sacrifice of the Christian community.
We have a wonderful health care system in America, and I am not suggesting that we take care of the sick, but we do need to lay our lives down for others like the second and third century Christians did and seek to share Christ with those who are afraid of dying, giving them hope, a relationship with GOD today, and eternal life in heaven forever.
If we live in fear, like the rest of the world who don’t know CHRIST, we will miss this opportunity to reach the lost with the Gospel. If we fear for our own lives, it will disqualify us in being able to share the hope of salvation and the confidence we have in CHRIST as our LORD and SAVIOR.
I pray that what is written here will call us up into the will, nature, and Word of GOD. Come, let us reason together and see what the word of GOD says about fear, sickness, and eternity. If the Word of GOD is true, then we have nothing to fear, and we have everything to give to those who do not know CHRIST and are afraid of death. Arise and shine for the light has come, and the LORD wants HIS light to shine through you.
Scriptures For Meditation and Courage
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge— no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.’” (Ps 91)
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:13-16)
“And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Isaiah 4:17-19)
“After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:1-9)
“The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20)
Chris Leeper is the director of 40 Days of HOPE. To learn more go here