How should Christians respond to the coronavirus pandemic? First, as Christ-followers, we need to remember that our Heavenly Father is “a refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble” (Psalm 46:1). We should not panic. Our Heavenly Father is still the all-knowing, ever-present, omnipotent God.
Perhaps the best question to ask is the one famously asked by the Rev. Charles Sheldon in his best-selling novel “In His Steps” (1896) at the turn of the 20th century. This novel produced the hugely influential “What Would Jesus Do?” (W.W.J.D.?) movement, which experienced a powerful revival at the beginning of the 21st century.
The best starting point in how we move forward is to always remember and have in our consciousness that we are disciples of our Lord Jesus, who commanded us “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) and “to do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31). He also said that we should render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s (Mark 12:17). Romans 13:5 reinforces this fact that Christians are to obey the government’s law “for conscience sake” unless in conscience they cannot.
What would Jesus do? I believe He would minister to the sick, seeking to provide comfort and assistance to those coping with the physical, emotional and economic aftermath of having the virus or having lost a loved one to it. If the projections about the percentage of the population that may become infected are even remotely accurate, then there will be manifold opportunities to be of assistance to our neighbors and their families even at risk to ourselves. That is certainly what Jesus would do.
Also, I don’t believe Jesus would put anyone else at needless risk. I believe Jesus would recommend that His disciples heed the government directives concerning the best medical practices to prevent the spread of this virus. In fact, if we as Christians assume that as believers we can disregard sound medical advice and engage in inherently risky behavior, presuming that God will still protect us, we are committing the sin of presumption.
Jesus Himself warned against this particular sin. When confronted by the Devil with this sin in the wilderness, Jesus replied, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:7). If the health authorities recommend no meeting of more than 50 people, is it presumption for churches to disregard these directives and assemble in person rather than through streaming online? I fear that it indeed would be.
As Christ’s disciples, we need to follow His command to pray for all of those who are in authority, that God will give them wisdom, guidance and protection as they seek to fulfill their divinely ordained assignment to protect the citizenry (Romans 13:1-7).
Jesus called us to be His ambassadors of reconciliation in word and in deed (2 Corinthians 5:19-20). Christians should pray that when the country looks back on this crisis, our fellow Americans will see this chapter in our history as one that reflects great credit on the Lord we serve.
I cannot help but think how different the past four decades of our nation’s cultural history would have been if Christians had done “what Jesus would do” and we had volunteered in overwhelming numbers at AIDS hospices to aid and comfort the tragic victims of that epidemic, modeling the transforming love of Jesus before a watching world.
With our Lord’s help, let us not fail to do our Christian duty this time.