Those of us who call ourselves Christ-followers believe some pretty radical things: A Jewish man who lived 2,000 years ago was and is God who came to save us from our sin; that same Jesus will come again, bring history to a close, and make all things right; and a God we can’t see is even now sovereignly ruling the universe.
To a lot of people, that sounds nuts. Almost as crazy as the idea that a bat can poop one day in China and, a few months later, bring the world to its knees! But that appears to be the reality of what has happened with this new disease.
That sums up the difference in approach to this disease between secularists and followers of Christ. It seems impossible that something this consequential can come about through an accident of nature. To secularists, this is the fact of the matter. However, for followers of Christ, there is an unsurprised sovereign King who has purpose and plan in the midst of this time of disease and death.
So, for those of us who believe this audacious truth …
WHAT DO WE DO NOW?!
Some things just seem like basic wisdom, and we’ve now heard them until we’ve pretty much memorized them; things like, “Wash your hands” … a lot.
But for those of us who believe, there has to be more than that. We should listen to the wise words of government and physicians, but we must listen to the wise words of God first and last. His words matter most.
We believe radical truths. His words call us to radical living. So, after washing our hands, here are three radical actions we can take that matter even more.
Radically Love Our Neighbors
Last week, I wrote about how Christians loved their neighbors during the plagues of the Roman Empire. But that kind of love is not limited to ancient history. Right now, in places like Iran and China, persecuted believers are stepping up and showing the love of Jesus to a literally dying world.
Word is coming out of China, for instance, of God’s people loving, serving, and sharing the gospel right in the middle of Wuhan. Hear the words of one Chinese pastor:
God 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.… [When] disaster strikes us, it is but a form of God’s love. Spoken for today, Wuhan’s pestilence cannot separate us from the love of Christ.
As I worshiped Sunday at the church where we are members, I was moved to tears listening to my pastor announce that our church would be sure that poor children in our region have food to eat while the schools are closed, and that our church would be shopping and running errands for the elderly and sick so they can stay safe in their homes. This is God’s people taking the words of Jesus from Matthew 25 seriously. We have the chance in these days to minister to Jesus as we serve the sick, the poor, and the stranger.
Radically Re-Shape the American Church
I wonder if this season of suffering may finally mark the death of cultural Christianity. That would be a good thing. Christianity in America has been in an extended season of decline. And those still left in our churches have seemed intent on fighting each other, excusing our own sin, and building internalized kingdoms of comfort.
Jesus calls us to unity in John 17. He calls us to radical obedience in Matthew 16:24. He calls us to join Him in His mission to the lost in Luke 19:10, instead of our mission to build a church we like. I believe the day will come soon when the crisis of this virus will end. If the American church could truly become Jesus’ church when all this is done, that could result in eternal good for the whole world.
Radically Return to God
I think one of the hardest things about this pandemic is the loss of our sense of control. Everything has changed around us so suddenly. We don’t have control over what to get at the store anymore because the shelves are empty. We don’t have control over travel anymore because the planes aren’t flying. We don’t have control of our schedule anymore because everything is canceling. Like Tom Hanks in the movie Cast Away, we seem to “have control over nothing.”
But that’s not actually true for those who follow Jesus—because we know that there is One who is actually IN control: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21 esv).
And since this mighty God has invaded our hearts, and since He inhabits our lives, we are not out of control! We live in His control. We are empowered with His purpose. We are a part of His plan.
BUT … we have departed from Him. I have, and you have. We will feel out of control as long as we stay distant from Him, numb to His call to repent. We will continue to point fingers and fight among ourselves until we find ourselves more astonished by God than we are afraid of a disease or anxious to return to our past patterns. We will feel out of control until we give up our own control and humbly cry out in brokenness, “I am the problem!”
IF THERE IS ONE THING ABOVE ALL ELSE THAT IS MORE IMPORTANT IN THESE DAYS THAN WASHING OUR HANDS, IT IS TO RETURN TO GOD AND LET HIM WASH OUR HEARTS!
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
Is the coronavirus a judgment from God? I never presume to explain to God WHY He does anything. But I know this: When Jesus talked about judgment, He took the emphasis off WHY it happened and put it on WHAT we would do next.
“Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4-5).
So what will YOU do now? What will I do now?
I have long believed that national revival was the only real hope for America. I have also believed that the only way we might experience it would be a national crisis of unprecedented magnitude.
Well, here we are.
It is time to return to the Lord. His call is clear.
“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster (Joel 2:12-13).
Don’t wait. Today is the day. Now is the moment. Return to God. Yes, wash your hands. But don’t stop with just your hands.