What is a Christian response to this Covid-19 pandemic that will shape our world for the months (perhaps years) to come and that is shaping our lives now?
As Christians, how ought we to respond? To feel? To think? To act?
One of the themes of the Book of Esther in the Bible is the providence of God. God is the true hero of the book and it is discernible that God lines up circumstances such that Esther is so well placed to act to try to save her people. Ironically, God is never mentioned by name in the book – yet God seems everywhere present behind the events…
In the Book of Esther chapter 4, Mordecai calls on Esther to stand up for her people, to beg King Xerxes to change his edict. She explains to Mordecai that such begging, even an approach to the King, may well cost her life. Then Mordecai messages Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him. (Esther 4:13-17)
Esther rises to the challenge before her. She steps out in faith. She succeeds in persuading the king, in saving her own life and that of Mordecai, and in saving all of God’s people…and in acting in ways that were consistent with her faith in a unique and threatening genocidal historic moment.
I want to suggest to you that in the midst of this coronavirus we find ourselves in a another threatening historic moment. It is not threatening genocide like it was for the Jewish people in Esther’s Persia, but nevertheless, Covid-19 is life threatening – to some of us, our neighbours, to those in our towns, our nation and indeed to the whole world.
We find ourselves in a moment of high anxiety for the world, and a changing cultural moment. We find ourselves in a time of fear – where people fear each other – because each one might be carrying this awful invisible virus around on their hands or on their breath.
What is ‘such a time as this’ calling us to do, to be as God’s people?
Is God providentially backgrounding circumstances for you, for me, for us as a Church…so that we may find ourselves in a position where we, if we act, perhaps at personal risk, may influence the course of events in a way that saves people and brings glory to our God?
I want to make some observations about this coronavirus ‘time’ that we are living through and I want to make some suggestions for you to consider about how you respond to ‘this time’.
1. SUCH A TIME AS THIS REQUIRES THE PEOPLE OF GOD TO LIVE BY FAITH
Firstly, we need to have faith in God’s continued sovereignty. It’s easy to see God at work in hindsight or in other people’s lives. We can see God working sovereignly in Esther’s life. Right now, we need to see God at work between the lines of the events that are unfolding internationally as well as locally, and we need to see God’s sovereignty in our own little lives.
Secondly, we need to have faith in God’s goodwill towards us – as a world and to you and I personally. When we are going through trouble, it is a great thing to know that God is for us, and that nothing can separate us from His love … not even death. As it is written in 1 Corinthians 15:55, death has lost its sting for us. People around us are afraid of dying – but we do not need to be afraid. Of course, we want to live through this, we want to be spared from this virus. But even if we lose our lives to Covid-19…we still live. We already have eternity! We are God’s children – no matter what.
And let us not forget that we will all die a physical death one day – whether by a virus like this one or a cancer or another disease. But we will be raised again – imperishable.
Trust in God – you will have Him no matter what the future holds. We can say, like Esther did “If I perish, I perish” – not fatalistically, not without sadness, not flippantly…No, we say it filled with certainty for our future, we say it with hope – for that is what hope is – certainty of what we cannot see. As real as this invisible coronavirus is, equally as real is God’s love for us. And you and I may find that in this threatening moment our faith becomes stronger not weaker, our relationship with God closer, our confidence in His love, greater.
2. SUCH A TIME AS THIS REQUIRES THAT GOD’S PEOPLE BE PREPARED TO VOICE OUR HOPE
To point people to Jesus and to invite people into the hope that we have. Sometimes we find that it’s hard to get God into the conversation with our unbelieving loved ones, friends, colleagues and neighbours. The coronavirus is giving us an opportunity, an open door to step through with the Gospel. Normally, life is generally good. But now life is not good. People will question life’s meaning. People will fear the future. Be there for them…share with them what casts out your fear. Offer to pray for them. Be ready to listen to them and to gently move them closer to Jesus.
3. SUCH A TIME AS THIS FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD CALLS FOR US TO BECOME KNOWN FOR OUR LOVE
This is our mission – to live by faith, to share our hope and to be known for our LOVE. John Calvin once said “Duty must not be neglected, no more in epidemic disease than in war or fire”. Our duty is to love others. Christ calls us to acts of loving service.
4. SUCH A TIME AS THIS ENTREATS US TO BE BOLD AS GOD’S PEOPLE.
Be bold in our own nervous way – just like Esther. Esther was like you and me. Her religion, even her race wasn’t something she had ever revealed. She wasn’t a risk-taking child of God – until God put her in a place where she could step out in faith and do something really worthwhile for God. What place has God put you in?
Charles Spurgeon put it this way: Every child of God is where God has placed them for some purpose, and the practical use of this point is to lead you to inquire for what practical purpose has God placed each one of us where we now are? We may wish to be in another position where we could do something for Jesus: do not wish anything of the kind, but serve Him were you are.
In a time of coronavirus – what practical purpose can we serve in it? We are the hands and feet of Jesus – what bold things can these hands and feet do in such a time as this?
5. SUCH A TIME AS THIS DEMANDS THAT GOD’S PEOPLE PRAY AND DO THE THINGS THAT CHRISTIANS DO – SING, MEET, PRAY TOGETHER
Esther calls for a fast…we know that prayer and fasting always go together in Scripture.
6. SUCH A TIME AS THIS ENTREATS US TO REMEMBER THE UNCHANGING NATURE OF THE GOSPEL
Whilst culture and the world may change, whilst the way we do church in the coming months will change, the Gospel does not. God is still calling us to new life in Christ, to forgiveness and renewal.
GOD IS THE GOD OF TIMES SUCH AS THIS! (TRACY LAUERSEN)