The world is now firmly in the grip of the coronavirus (more accurately known as Covid 19) pandemic which originated in China but has now spread to many countries, with Italy and Spain being among the hardest hit. While medical assessments of the virus are evolving, it seems that Covid 19 is not in itself regarded as a fatal illness, but it can lead to death when victims are elderly or have underlying health problems. The death toll is rising in the UK and worse is now expected. NHS is on red alert.
Events are moving at an almost hourly pace, and the Prime Minister has announced new measures to stop public gatherings. Businesses are closing and society is grinding to a halt and we are quite rightly being told to STAY AT HOME.
What is now happening is unprecedented. Churches are also affected and have now been ordered to close. Most had already done so last Lord’s Day on the basis of adhering to Romans 13 and the 6th Commandment. The first Sunday was a most strange feeling but it is clear that in the midst of our sadness at not being able to meet for worship, we have wondeful opportunities to reach out to the wider community through modern means of communication such as Facebook and YouTube. People might now be more willing to listen to God and His Word.
It is not unnatural that the world is worried by this virus, for it reminds us how weak and vulnerable mankind can be and how small our world really is. Despite our boasting about our achievements, we are fragile creatures at best. All it takes is for a bug of some sort to manifest itself in one country and then to quickly spread around the world.
And mankind’s default position when faced with the sort of threat thrown up by the coronavirus is to immediately descend into a blind panic. Much of this is driven by the media and the demand for 24/7 news. Every few minutes our phones bleep with the latest news update. Experts opine and Governments seek to lead. Of course, there is no excuse for ignoring the threat or simply dismissing it as some have done. Northern Ireland Health Minister, Robin Swann, summed it up well when he said, “Complacency is our enemy – but so too are panic and hysteria”.
The sad reality is that people panic because they have no anchor in a time of storm. They denounce faith in God as a fable and a nonsense in an “enlightened world”, and when something goes wrong, they flounder as those “having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). We see it not only in relation to the coronavirus but in other areas such as climate change too.
As Christians, we are to remain calm in a time of crisis. Psalm 46 seems very relevant in today’s circumstances. “God is our refuge and strength… therefore will not we fear” (vv.1-2). “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (v.7). “Be still, and know that I am God” (v.10). Let us reflect much upon these comforting words, and let us pray for the world, not only in relation of Covid 19 but that the light of the glorious Gospel might spread from pole to pole. Let us also await, with great hope and expectation, the sure and certain return of our Lord Jesus Christ. The signs are surely pointing towards it.