In February, COVID-19 was little more than click bait to me. A blinking ad shouted, “Check out the eerie empty streets of China…” Curiosity won out and I clicked.
Huh. What’s this all about? This seems borderline apocalyptic; the whole city is empty. Then I promptly dismissed the issue from my mind. China’s a world away after all and that really has nothing to do with me. I’ve got a job to do, a family to take care of, so my emotional energy is already allocated, leaving no time to worry about foreign affairs.
Passion for the Nations?
1.) The Source of Love
A month before this video you could have asked me, “Do you care about sharing the Gospel with China?” You would have received an emphatic reply from me, “Yes! Of course!” I would have quoted this Bible verse to you:
Matthew 24:14 (ESV)
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
The ability to quote the proper Bible verse about evangelism doesn’t change the reality of my heart. My disinterest in the well being of Chinese residents revealed a disturbing reality. I didn’t really love the people of China.
I’m not sure if there is a specific barrier that stifles my love for our Chinese neighbors. Simply put I’m a self-absorbed sinner. I would love to imagine that I am overflowing with love, but this outbreak has reminded me of my constant need for God to fill my heart with love.
Romans 5:5- 8 (ESV)
Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
This might surprise some people but we don’t have any love to offer people without God. We can’t dig deep within or find our humanity. We’re all desperate sinners. God is the only source of love.
1 John 4:8 (ESV)
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
2.) Patriotism on Steroids
It could also be that a steady diet of patriotism has led me to believe that the only nation God cares about is America.
We can learn a lot from Jonah on the subject of national pride. Jonah is more than a well-known account of a man swallowed by a great fish. It provides a glimpse into what happens when you limit God’s love for the world.
God sent Jonah to Nineveh with a warning to repent or be destroyed. There’s one problem with this plan. In Jonah’s mind Nineveh is a huge threat to the well-being of Israel. Historically, Nineveh was known as one of the most brutal cultures to ever exist, skinning their victims and displaying the dead bodies on stakes as a display of their dominance. These were vicious people. Jonah couldn’t understand how God would want to help the enemy of His chosen people.
In a similar fashion I think we can get caught up in viewing China, Russia, and Iraq as enemies to God’s favorite country – America. When this belief is adopted, I think it hinders our ability to love our global neighbors. Let’s remember that God is interested in the salvation of the entire globe.
John 3:16-18 (ESV)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.italics added for emphasis
The Air is Rank with Fear
College basketball’s March Madness…cancelled.
The remainder of the NBA season…cancelled.
This clip from LOTR sums up the general vibe of America as COVID-19 interrupts our pattern of life.
3.) Trusting the Shepherd
I don’t want to admit it, but that gnarly Orc is talking about me. I’m afraid. Uncertainty is great fertilizer for growing panic among people.
Is COVID-19 basically the flu? Or will it turn us into zombies? Something in between? I really don’t know…
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention upwards of 20,000 people die from the flu yearly and it doesn’t alarm us or incite panic. Is this news coverage of COVID-19 media induced hysteria? Perhaps the Orc works for Fox News or CNN, and is giddy at the thought of a story that will boost ratings.
Whatever COVID-19 is isn’t really the point. Our fears are unmasked when we have to wrestle with the thought of death. That’s distressing.
What if my kids get sick? It’s too horrific to imagine for most parents. Thankfully, reports say that children under 18 are actually very resistant to COVID-19. Praise God!
Even if children are safe from COVID-19, a deep fear has been shoved in my face and it makes me uncomfortable but it’s a valuable lesson. I don’t trust God with my children.
My attention bounces to my parents and the elderly. My church congregation is older, 49% of our members are 50 years old or older. If this virus hits our church or my parents’ church it could kill them. I don’t trust God with my parents or elders at church either.
I would like to pretend that I trust God with my life, or the life of my beautiful wife, but the truth is we’re young and healthy. My lack of fear has nothing to do with trusting in God, I trust the vigor that my wife and I possess.
Consumed by fear I’ve forgotten that God is sovereign. We belong to Him.
Psalm 100:3 (ESV)
Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
For good measure here’s another verse to communicate God’s control over life and death.
Romans 14:8 (ESV)
For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.
God is the good Shepherd and He takes care of us.
4.) Undervaluing Eternal Life
But people are dead. More are likely to die from the COVID-19 pandemic. How can a good God allow death? I’ve written about that before: click here to read more.
The Bible says we have victory over death by faith in the work of Christ. What’s all this talk of death losing it’s sting?
Victory over death doesn’t mean that we don’t die. Victory over death means that we don’t stay in the grave when we die with faith in Christ.
John 11:25-26 (ESV)
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.
We’re also prone to ignore the wonder and majesty of eternity in the presence of Christ. Heaven is better, yet we cling to this fallen world.
Philippians 1:21-24 (ESV)
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.
Jesus is our Savior. He saves us from radical self-absorbed living and fills us with love for our neighbor. Christ provides eternal hope that even death can’t extinguish. By faith in Christ’s resurrection we can be certain that the grave won’t hold us either. Whether we fear for loved ones or our own skin, Jesus is the Good Shepherd we can trust.
I’m thankful that God has unveiled my frailty, fear, and unbelief. He’s invited me to trust Him during this season of uncertainty. I invite you to trust Jesus too.