We’ve been hearing about the COVID-19 virus–better known as coronavirus–for several weeks now, but the news reports have certainly ramped up this week, especially in our area as there was talk of the government bringing infected patients to our state to be quarantined until they got better. Our governor nixed that idea, so I guess those sick folks will have to find someplace else to convalesce.
Of course, the other reason for the increased media hysteria and the exaggerated fears of a pandemic are because of the politicization of the virus, which has turned tragic sickness into a political football to be kicked back and forth. Sadly, this has become the norm, whatever the issue is, especially during a season of presidential primary debates and elections, as people seek to find someone else to blame and even use a virus for their own political gain.
Indeed the virus is a very serious thing. Depending on whose numbers you read, about 80,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus worldwide, though most of those have been in China where it originated. And nearly 3,000 people have died from the virus, and those numbers are going up every day. That sounds like a lot, until you compare that to the World Health Organization’s estimates that the flu kills somewhere between 290,000 and 650,000 people every year around the world. The U.S. Center for Disease Control estimates that total to be much lower–only about 60,000–but either way, you get the idea.
And yes, there’s always the possibility of a worldwide outbreak of any virus, not unlike the SARS and the Asian bird flu of a decade or so ago. And even as recently as a hundred years ago, the influenza outbreak of 1918-19 killed more people than “the war to end all wars,” with an estimated 20 to 40 million people killed by the flu around the world.
Amidst the panic, Americans are buying up all the sanitizers and face masks they can find, even though the CDC tells us those things won’t really help us avoid catching the virus. But facts rarely get in the way of fear when social media takes over, and people continue to empty shelves as fast as they can get them stocked. And speaking of stocks, our 401K’s and IRA’s are sure taking a hit, as the stock market reacts to the effects on the Chinese economy already and the fears of what might happen here in America.
In the mean time, we are told to keep washing our hands and covering our mouths when we sneeze or cough, just as we would to avoid catching or spreading the common cold, the flu or any other virus that is not out of the ordinary this time of year.
What is the Christian perspective on all this? First, we have hope–and not for this life only. The reality is, no matter what gets us, something will, eventually, and we have nothing to fear, because, as the apostle Paul said, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Not that we shouldn’t be concerned about any illness or irresponsible in spreading it, but fear is never a right response for those whose hope is fixed on heaven, beyond this world.
I also can’t help but be reminded that we as Christ-followers are carriers of a contagion of our very own–except that ours is not a disease, but a cure. Sin has a deadly effect on all humanity, but Jesus came and died for our sin, and He has given us His gospel to take to the world to rescue them from their fatal affliction. Just as we have been reading in the book of Acts in our current message series, the gospel was contagious in the the first-century church, spreading like wildfire first in Jerusalem, and then to all Judea and Samaria, and to “the uttermost parts of the earth.” That little group of believers huddled together in the upper room would go on to change their world after the Spirit came at Pentecost.
And here we are, 20 centuries later, still sharing the contagious gospel with everyone we come in contact with, the only hope for the world today. So, who are you “infecting” with His hope this week?
I will pray for your protection from sickness, but also that the Lord would fill you with His Spirit as you are available to be used to impact our world for eternity, one person at a time. I look forward to seeing you Sunday.