To be clear, I am Dutch. Some things I say may not be applicable for those living outside the Netherlands… Or maybe, it does. Anyway. Christians, like all other people in the Netherlands, are affected by the Covid-Sars2 virus. How do we deal with it? Are we going to get caught up in the panic or do we stay calm. It turns out That many people are very susceptible to fear, yes, even Christians. Of course, Christians in particular will not readily admit this, after all:
- Brother! We must not tempt the Lord! (Deuteronomy 6:16 as well as Matthew 4: 7)
Exactly! We must obey the government. (Titus 3: 1)
Yes, moreover. It testifies to charity. You certainly don’t want anyone to get Corona through you? (Leviticus 19:18 and Luke 10:27)
Okay, okay, stop! It is clear enough! I’m probably not as educated as you are, but I know these texts and comments. I’m not going to tell anyone to disobey God’s word, okay? But now back to the question: How do we deal with this?
To start with our minds.Colossians 3:10 speaks of Christians as being new people who must also be renewed in their knowledge. In ancient paganism, but also in the current scientific climate, people prided and pride themselves on knowledge. Knowledge of the natural is beautiful, but not complete without knowledge of Him who made it. Christians should excel when it comes to research. Why do I talk to and see so many Christians who say exactly what they have heard on the mainstream news channels? Why do I not hear much about coming from other sources? Are we too lazy to excel? Is it easy to adopt the dished knowledge because when you repeat the mainstream nobody can call you out, right?
Then fear!No! I hear my brothers and sisters say, we are not afraid ourselves! We are just careful for the people around us. I’m sorry, but in many cases I don’t believe a word of it. Too often I have heard the excuse that people do something, not for themselves, but for the other person. This while the other person had not asked for it at all, did not even know about it or was not even concerned about it. We shouldn’t fool ourselves with nice talk. Of course! There are many Christians who are sticking their necks out today. Awesome! Let’s hear what Luther had to say. Luther was in the middle of a plague epidemic. Just for those of you who don’t know much about this decease. The plague will kill you quick and horribly. Without treatment, less than 40% of infected people survive the bubonic plague. The bubonic plague is sometimes accompanied by the even more dangerous pneumonic plague. If left untreated, pneumonic plague is fatal in almost 100% of cases within a few days. The plague does not discriminate like the Corona virus does. The plague strikes young and old, rich and poor! Luther answered this when he was asked how his fellow pastors should deal with the plague:
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me He will surely find me and I have done what He has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbour needs me however I shall not avoid place or person I shall go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.” i History shows several times that Luther was not alone in overcoming his fear in times of crisis. Dionysius lived around 250 AD. and said:
“Most of our Christian brothers showed unconditional love and loyalty, they never spared themselves and they only thought of the other. Not without danger did they care for the sick, meet their needs, and minister to them in Christ, and together with the sick they left life behind in perfect joy.” ii The Covid-Sars 2 virus cannot be compared with the plague epidemics. Still, we are only very quickly prepared to treat everyone as a potential threat. It reminds me of ancient lepers. Calling loudly and warning with a rattle, they walked, alone on the roads. Why is it that when I meet someone, I tend to shout: Leprous! Leprous!
PassivityFinally, we need to say a thing or two about our attitude. I know there are Christians who don’t want to be involved in politics. After all, we are citizens of the Kingdom of God and have nothing to do with earthly politics. Looking at Jesus I see a completely different attitude. By definition, Jesus was not apolitical. Judaism, religion and government were inextricably linked. When Jesus tells the Roman soldiers to be satisfied with their salary, is political interference. His comment to Pilate in which He said that he would have no power if God had not assigned it to him, was political. We have seen great changes in history through active Christians. This started in the Roman Empire. The biblical teaching of Jesus Christ challenged almost everything the Roman world had stood for. iii Unwanted children were left in the mountains or forests, convicted criminals were branded, there were horrifying games where one had to kill another human or were spectators watched people being devoured by wild animals. These practices were slowly but surely abolished and even banned under the influence of the Word of God, the Bible. Christians did not remain silent but spoke out against these practices because they believed on the basis of the Bible that man was created in the image of God and that human life should be considered sacred (Genesis 1:26). iv Still, later we also see changes in many African countries. Cannibalism was common practise in several countries, and there was also a custom that when the village elder died, his wife had to be killed as well. There was also a gruesome habit in India. Suttee in India — the widow was burned at the stake of her deceased husband. And it were mostly bold Christians who helped stop the slave trade in the 19th century. v Admittedly, Christianity has not always been executed in a biblical way. Compulsory conversions under penalty of death, or burnings, beheadings, and torture of dissent are, to say it mildly, a blemish to true Biblical doctrine. Generally, Christians did not keep quiet! Now, should we claim to be passive? Tell that, to all those Christians who have been laughed at, persecuted, killed or tortured for their ‘unwanted’ opinion. Tell that, to the believers who have started hospitals, nursing homes, food banks, and projects for homeless people. Yes, we even owe several prominent universities to Christians who took Jesus’ teaching about charity seriously. In our day too, we need bold Christians. A live stream is not a permanent solution! It’s a great things that it is possible and that people have seized the opportunity, but let’s be honest … That is not fellowship. Where are the Christians who speak up and stand up for the interests of the Church? It is not hard to find people who stick their necks out for the catering industry, self-employed people and, for example, hairdressers. Fantastic. Keep on doing! But where are the followers of Jesus who fight for the weak? The elderly who are locked up in a room against their will. Yes, many people will say, but we do that for their own well-being! Well, that is great when grandma or grandpa ask for themselves, But since when do we consider it normal to deny people social contact in the last phase of their lives? And when they die we still think it is normal denying visitors to come? Where, then, are the Christians who oppose this? Was it not the Lord Jesus Himself who touched the lepers, He who was called friend of sinners. Christians have a message. That message isn’t just for a live stream. That message must be lived out and propagated. The message of freedom and joy, the message of salvation and humanity. Be inspired by all our preceding brothers and sisters, and step out of your cocoon in faith.
i Luther’s Works; Vol. 43, pag. 132.
ii Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became a Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1997), 82.
iii How Christianity Changed the World, Schmidt, p. 44.
iv What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?, Kennedy, J, pp. 9–11. and How Christianity Changed the World, Schmidt, pp. 63-65.
v What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?, Kennedy, J, pp. 16–17.