A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO THE CORONA VIRUS, Part 1

In Dec. 2019, in Wuhan China, a new disease was identified that attacks the lungs making breathing very difficult. Within 3 months, it had spread to 180 countries with approximately 250,000 cases. COVID-19 (Corona Virus Disease 2019) currently has a death rate of 3-4%. But we can expect these figures to drop as more cases of those who recovered are included. In 2014, West Africa saw Ebola with a death rate of 40%.

On 15 March 2020, President Ramaphosa declared that South Africa was in a state of emergency. Then on 23 March, a lockdown was imposed whereby all traffic was reduced to the necessities such as hospitals, groceries, and police. As of 25 March, there are 709 confirmed cases and not yet any fatalities. Beginning Friday, 27 March until 17 April, the entire country is banned from most travel, work, and public gatherings.

The infections grow exponentially pictured as a line sharply turning upward. After the virus begins to weaken, the infections cease to increase and then decline. When this action is shown on paper, it looks like a bell curve. Governments around the world are taking measures in order to “flatten the curve.”

This virus provides a platform from which to inspect a Christian worldview. How should Christians respond? If you had read from Genesis to Revelation 50 times, how would you respond?

Christians live by the great principles of their faith especially during a crisis. So, here are some wrong responses followed by a list of eight Biblical principles that ought to guide us.

Three unbiblical responses

“We will be safe in Jesus’ name.”

This may also be heard as: “My faith is in God, so I am protected.” Or, “God told me He would keep me safe.” Or worst of all, “I bind you, Satan, and all your viruses!”

This is a very common response from people who think of themselves as Christian, but it is a silly blend of positive thinking and spirit worship.

“It does not matter. There’s nothing to be concerned about.”

As of this writing, 19,000 have died who had this virus. They have stepped into eternity with no hope of returning or changing the destiny to which they are now trapped. Families have lost loved ones and breadwinners and mothers. Even more so than other flu epidemics, it is specially contagious. There is a great risk that it could reach poorer areas where water, hygiene, and close living could spread the disease quickly to people without resources for medical care.

“This could kill off whole towns and villages!”

The death rate is especially pronounced for those over 60. For example, the average age of those who died in Italy is 79. The great majority of those who are younger without previous health problems are coming through the virus in a few weeks.

1. History reveals many plagues that have taken great numbers of people.

History is filled with numerous stories of plague, famine, and tragedy. We are all tempted to think that our problem at the moment is the worst ever. What person over 70 has not said or thought, “The young people these days are terrible?”

COVID 19 is a serious threat, but there are an infinite number of gradations of seriousness which we may apply to any threat. History supplies the long term perspective to help us battle disease on one side and to keep our fears and our response in check on the other.

We might be tempted to overreact as if this was the first time or the worst time. The majority of those who have passed away had pre-existing conditions and were over 60 years old. But historically, far more people died in the previous plagues of history.

Even in recent history there are terrible physical tragedies. In 2017, 3,561 people died per day from TB. Yet this is not a worldwide concern. Influenza kills many thousands per day, but governments are not shutting down their countries. Each day, 3,287 people die from road accidents around the world. This last number is particularly remarkable because we could solve this problem by reducing the speed limit to 30 k’s per hour (19 mph), and yet there is no global travel on this road.

Millions dead Area Date Disease
5-10 million Roman Empire 165-180 Possibly smallpox
25-50 million (40% of population) Europe Egypt, and West Asia 541-542 Plague
approx. ​1⁄3 of entire Japanese population Japan 735–737 Smallpox
50–200 million; 10–60% of European population Europe, Asia and North Africa 1331–1353 Plague (Black death)  
5-8 million Mexico 1520 Smallpox
5–15 million (80% of population) Mexico 1545–1548 Possibly Salmonella enterica
2–2.5 million (50% of pop.) Mexico 1576–1580 Possibly Salmonella
> 2,000,000 Persia 1772 Plague
1,000,000 Russia 1852–1860 Cholera
>22 million in India, more worldwide Worldwide 1855–1960 Bubonic plague
1,000,000 Worldwide 1889–1890 Influenza
1.5 million worldwide 1915–1926 Encephalitis lethargica
25-100 million Worldwide 1918-1920 Influenza
2,000,000 worldwide 1957–1958 Influenza A virus subtype H2N2
1,000,000 worldwide 1968–1969 Influenza A virus subtype H3N2
> 32,000,000 worldwide
(from Congo Basin)
1920–present HIV/AIDS

Christians should be good students of history because hundreds of pages of the Bible are historical accounts. History is the story of God’s will. If He had wanted it to turn out differently, He was certainly able to change things. Yet in history He sits in the Heavens and laughs at sinners (Psalm 2:4), pours out kindness on both believers and unbelievers (Matt. 5:45), and shows again and again that every doctrine in His Word is true. As we read about yesterday, we ought to make theological connections. The diseases of history show the horror of sin (Rom. 8:20-22), and the marvelous medical breakthroughs display the grace, providence, and creativity of God.

Summary: History can correct us from the natural selfishness which tempts us to exaggerate our own problems and quickly forget the great trials of others.

Series navigation
A Christian response to the Corona Virus, Part 1
A Christian response to the Corona Virus, Part 2
A Christian response to the Corona Virus, Part 3

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