Christianity and the Covid-19 Pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly been an unprecedented time of trial for most of the post-war generation. Its impact has not only prematurely caused the death of millions of people but impacted far more through the economic and social fallout as lock-downs force businesses to close, many millions into unemployment, and governments struggling with massive budget blow-outs. Life, as most of us have known it, has changed radically being unable to do many of the things we took for granted such as meeting in a church, going out for a meal and going on a vacation. Fear has gripped many.
But Christians should not fear in these times. While we ought to sensibly take all due precautions to avoid infection, we cannot totally. Jesus warned us 2000 years ago that one of the signs of the end time would be pestilences (Luke 21:11). Death is always a reality in this world.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also shown us how governments, given a justifiable reason, can impose seemingly draconian measures which would not be tolerated in other circumstances. Of course we ought to obey our government leaders – as far as it depends on us. Clearly we need to obey the health directives, not for our own sake but especially for the most vulnerable. But it has set a precedent – that great restrictions can be imposed on the population at large, or certain parts, if they are deemed to be in the interests of the nation as a whole.
Many – including Christians – have taken exception, in the name of ‘freedom’, to the restrictions imposed on populations by government authorities because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, as Christians, we need to see true freedom is something only God can give. We tend to place physical freedom as a priority whereas it is spiritual freedom which is the real need – given as a gift through salvation in Christ. Many in this world are physically bound but spiritually free while those without Christ maybe physically free but spiritually bound. So let’s keep a spiritual perspective on the current situation and not become preoccupied with gaining ‘freedom’.
There have been a number of prominent Christian leaders who have encouraged their followers to ignore the restrictions on church meetings since we ‘ought to obey God rather than men’. I’d suggest that it is their tradition that has been restricted not a clear command of Scripture. Yes, we are told not to forsake gathering together (Hebrews 10:25). Yet what constitutes a church meeting? Jesus said ‘where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst‘ (Matthew 18:20). So we don’t have to meet in the hundreds or thousands but in home or small group settings (as the early church did).
One criticism levelled against pro-vaccine Christians is that they are succumbing to fear. As Christians we ought not to fear death yet, as far as it depends on us, we are to preserve life and cherish it as God’s gift while we are in this world. We are charged to keep our bodies healthy, as the temple of the Holy Spirit.
If there’s one thing we need at this time when we hear numerous voices, all claiming to be true yet contradicting each other, is godly wisdom.
One placard at an anti-covid-19 vaccination/mandate rally read “Jesus is my vaccine”. The truth is Jesus saves us from sin – not necessarily covid-19. We need to be careful in making such statements as it can effectively be putting God to the test – which we are commanded never to do. We need to be careful we are not inadvertently succumbing to a spirit of rebellion in the name of ‘standing up for our God-given rights’.
We all take measures to ensure our health: eating good food, exercise and other prophylactic measures. When sick we seek medical treatment and take medication, we wear seatbelts and drive vehicles with a host of safety features, obey road safety rules – all common sense stuff. It is not driven by fear.
A widely spread idea is that the covid-19 vaccines are harmful. Yet there is no legitimate evidence this is the case. True there are a few known adverse reactions which have resulted in deaths but these are insignificant compared to the number of people who have died from the virus (see below for more information).
Please note: I’m not saying we should accept unconditionally whatever laws governments impose. We should pray for and while we have opportunity strive to ensure our governments act justly and in the best interests of all people. And remember there is no law which can prevent us doing God’s will – bearing the fruit of His Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
As Christians how should we respond to this crisis and others?
First we need to know all things are ultimately in God’s control. While for now life has changed greatly, and for many for the worse, we need to keep the promises of God’s word always in our minds. As Habakkuk says:
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places (Habakkuk 3:17-19 ESV).
Habakkuk, though, was anticipating an invasion by the Babylonians and the appalling destruction that would result. The Babylonians were notoriously known for their indiscriminate destruction – respecting neither age or gender. Today we face an invasion of an invisible enemy, one which also does not discriminate by age, gender or social status. All ages (though the elderly more so) have succumbed to this virus, the rich and the poor, the famous and the obscure.
Many have found the prevalence of suffering and injustice in this world incompatible with the existence of an all powerful and loving God. We may think ‘if God is all powerful and loving, why do the innocent suffer’ and ‘why doesn’t He stop this terrible plague?’
We are not given a reason for every specific evil that we see in this world. Some are clearly the result of man’s actions. Others are seemingly what we would call ‘natural disasters’. The reality is we live in a fallen world, in which the devil still has influence and control (though limited) and in which decay, disease and death are daily occurrences. Yet we also know one day all these will end and there be final justice. That is our hope which God has promised.
Jeremiah, like Habakkuk, found himself in a time of great trial and personal suffering. After pouring out his grief to God he went on to say:
My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I will call to mind, and therefore have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, therefore I will hope in him (Lamentations 3:20-24).
Notice Jeremiah does not deny the reality of his circumstances, but calls to his mind the hope he has in God – His steadfast love never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is His faithfulness. He meets my deepest needs. My hope is in Him.
Therefore if we remind ourselves, daily, of these things, even speaking aloud to ourselves the great hope and steadfast love we have in God, fear, grief and depression will not overwhelm us. During this Covid-19 pandemic is a time when we can reflect on what really counts when so much of what we consider necessary in modern society are in reality trivial and fleeting.
So with Habakkuk we can also say: “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength“.
Covid-19 Update July 2021
Since writing the comments above I have learnt of much disinformation being disseminated on the Internet about the Covid-19 pandemic and vaccines (including by Christians). Many consider the restrictions imposed on populations and the role out of the Covid-19 vaccines as a sinister conspiracy designed to control the population. Some have gone as far as saying the statistics of infections and deaths are fictitious.
It is deeply troubling that many Christians have believed these conspiracy theories and disinformation about the vaccines. In my observation it wasn’t until governments began lockdowns and compulsory measures to reduce transmission of the virus that these theories began to emerge. Accusations of ‘world control’ and ‘plandemic’ spread on the Internet along with false information that the vaccines were poisonous or even ‘the mark of the beast’. It seems such ideas were based on a distrust of secular authorities and a particular interpretation of end-time prophecies.
Yet it is not as if what we are now experiencing is something totally new. The experience of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic mirrors in many ways what we are experiencing now: compulsory quarantine and wearing of masks, lock-downs, social distancing and closed state borders. A documentary about the impact of the Spanish flu in Australia reveals many similarities to the Covid-19 pandemic.
While we might have legitimate concerns about the Covid-19 vaccines’ effectiveness and safety, some priority needs to be considered as the virus takes a huge toll on both lives and the economy. In the US alone it is expected the death toll will reach or exceed half a million people by the time the virus is under control.
Many Christians have died as a consequence of contracting the virus. In India and Nepal over 2000 pastors and church leaders have died. There have been many in Western countries also. The virus is clearly no discriminator of persons.
Christians ought to be purveyors of truth and hope, not conspiracies based on fear, half-truths and anecdotal evidence. We need sober and careful analysis of the evidence. Here are a few links:
1. This article by Robert Carter of Creation Ministries International gives factual and timely information regarding the new vaccines for Covid-19.
2. Christians and the Vaccine: a Christian website with sound information and how to discern truth from error.
3. This article by Baptist News Global gives some sound advice regarding how we should view conspiracy theories.
4. And this one from ‘The Conversation’:
God, plagues and pestilence – what history can teach us about living through a pandemic
With the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccines there have been legitimate ethical concerns regarding their manufacture. In particular some vaccines are produced using cells derived from an aborted foetus. For many Christians this poses an issue of conscience. Three Christian leaders in Australia outlined their concerns in a letter to Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
This article is informative regarding the manufacture and testing of a number of vaccines by which you can make an informed decision.
Any comments please contact me.