Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
The other night, as usual, the majority of the news concerned the Corona virus. Locally, we were informed how many new cases had cropped up in the Louisville area. Most disconcerting was the statement that one of the infected people was refusing to self isolate.
I wondered what type of individual would take such a stand. Someone with no concern for anyone but himself? A conspiracy theorist convinced that the Corona virus is a hoax? Or someone so impressed with his own importance that he thinks the world will fall apart without him?
This morning another possibility occurred to me. Oh Lord, I hope this isn’t some misguided Christian trying to make a point about faith!
Historically, Christians have been known to respond to an epidemic differently from the average person. The Antonine Plague in the Roman Empire during the second century reached a point where 2,000 people were dying every day. The sick were being abandoned by their leaders, physicians, and even their families. Meanwhile, the Christians were staying and caring for the sick, including their pagan neighbors. *
About a hundred years later (250-270 A.D.) another plague hit, believed to be measles or smallpox. This time 5,000 people per day were dying in Rome alone, and again the Christians were the ones staying to help the afflicted. Emperor Decius tired to blame these believers for the plague, but considering they were dying along with everyone else, how many truly believed it? *
Examples of Christian selflessness throughout history are as recent as Mother Teresa’s missionaries, who devote their lives to caring for dying lepers. This is Christian faith at its best.
Back to last night’s news… Deliberately exposing other people to a disease is the opposite of these! It is being willing to risk someone else’s life for the sake of one’s own convenience. The one is heroic, the other despicable. If I could speak to that person refusing to quarantine himself/herself, I would say:
“Sir (or Ma’am), if you have been tested positive for the Corona virus (or any other contagious disease), you are not engaging in an act of great faith – or bravery or greatness – by refusing to be quarantined. You are engaging in an act of total selfishness. Get over yourself. Stay home.”
Besides this act of recklessness, I’ve seen two other counterproductive ways of responding to this pandemic. One is to react in panic. We’ve seen it displayed in grocery stores by people who take every last package of toilet paper, or every last can of soup leaving none for the rest of us. I’ve even seen footage of screaming brawls. These are prime examples of how fear can turn normal people into selfish animals. I sincerely hope that no one who professes to trust Christ has engaged in that kind of behavior.
Another bad response I’ve seen that shows up on the news a lot these days is grabbing hold of the issue and exploiting it for political purposes, widening the division this country already has. Perhaps they think pointing a finger will help. But the Blame Game only stirs up more anger.
Before giving way to any more knee-jerk reactions, please note:
Fear and rage wreak havoc on the immune system.
The best way for a Christian to avoid these two health hazards is to remain calm, follow reasonable guidelines to protect yourself and others, and look to God for protection, strength, and peace. As a fellow blogger pointed out, one of three things will happen: (1) You won’t get the disease, (2) you’ll get it and recover, or (3) you’ll get it and go to be with Jesus. For the Christian it’s “win-win-win.”
If you aren’t a Christian, my advice is, become one, A.S.A.P. No, I’m not joking. See my post from last week, “We’re All Going To Die,” ** because like it or not, we are. Really. Maybe soon, maybe not, but it’s going to happen. Why not be prepared now?
If you are a health care worker and must be around the elderly, including those infected with the virus, God bless you! Our prayers are with you. If you are healthy and like the early Christians you truly believe God is leading you to put your life on the line to help sick, God bless you! Our prayers are with you. If you believe you may have Corona virus, please show your love for others by distancing yourself from them. Our prayers are with you, too.
For those of us in isolation, some things to think about: When was the last time you were able to spend a solid hour in prayer without keeping one eye on the clock? When was the last time you were able to sit quietly listening for God’s Still, Small Voice? When was the last time you sensed His sheer delight in having you in His presence? Don’t let the coming days be wasted. Solitude can be a blessing when used well.
(Besides, a child of God is never truly alone.)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we are so accustomed to running around from one activity to another that being still seems strange to us. And yet You told Your disciples “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”[Mark 6:31] I believe You are extending that invitation to us, even today in the midst of the Corona outbreak. Help us quiet our hearts and hear Your voice, in Jesus’ name. Amen.