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How should Christians respond to the Corona virus?
By Rev Ian Duncan
The World Health Organization (WHO) has described the corona virus pandemic as the "defining global health crisis of our time". But come back with me to an earlier time. From the year AD 249 to AD 262 a pandemic swept through the Roman Empire decimating the population. At its height, reportedly killed as many as 5,000 people per day in Rome.
Pagans tended to flee the cities during plagues, but Christians were more likely to stay and minister to the suffering. According to Dionysius: “Most of our brother Christians showed unbonded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another.
Ignoring of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with the dying, departed this life, serenely happy.”
Ultimately this pandemic not only strengthened, but also helped to spread Christianity throughout the furthest reaches of the empire and Mediterranean world.
Cyprian, in De Mortalitate, wrote of how differently the Christians behaved, “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!”
Dionysius added: “The best of our brothers lost their lives in this manner, a number of presbyters, deacons, and laymen winning high commendation so that death in this form, the result of great piety and strong faith, seems in every way the equal of martyrdom.” The threat of imminent death from the plague and the unwavering conviction among many of the Christian clergy in the face of it won more converts to the faith.
Almost 2,000 years later, an unnamed Chinese pastor in Wuhan writes to remind his brothers and sisters in faith that as Christians, we are not exempt from times of struggle and sickness, but that we are ‘more than conquerors’ in Christ, reminding us to turn our eyes upon Jesus.
“His peace is not to remove us from disaster and death, but rather to have peace in the midst of disaster & death, because Christ has already overcome these things. [Disease] cannot separate us from the love of Christ. The situation is so critical, yet [we are] trusting in the Lord’s promises, that His thoughts toward us are of peace, and not evil (Jeremiah. 29:11), and that He allows for a time of testing, not to destroy us, but to establish us.
Therefore, Christians are not only to suffer with the people of this city, but we have a responsibility to pray for those in this city who are fearful, and to bring to them the peace of Christ.”
Our neighbours are in a panic. They stockpile supplies, and isolate themselves. Sporting events are closed. Concerts and classes are cancelled. Large and successful churches have shut their doors. Where can frightened people turn? The answer is, they can turn to you. You have what they need.
Throughout all of human history, and all around the world, the Good News of Jesus is the message of hope. You have peace; the peace that passes all understanding. Jesus cares for his lambs. He will carry us through all our difficulties. He will provide us with everything we need. And when it is our time to leave this life, He will carry us to our eternal home, while caring for those we leave behind. The often repeated call through God’s Word is, “Fear not!”