The current crisis involving COVID-19 is causing massive changes around the world. Tragically, thousands of people have already lost their lives, and increasingly many more their livelihoods. Life as we know it will never really be the same. As the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has said, this is one of those once in a generation, historic events. Significantly, at the opening of the parliamentary sitting, Mr. Morrison said:
While you may not be able to go to church, the synagogue, the temple or the mosque, I most certainly call on all people of faith for you to pray… I can assure you, my prayer knees are getting a good work out.
It is a truly wonderful thing to have as our nation’s leader a man who fears God and who respectively calls on fellow citizens to do the same. But without in any way downplaying the power of prayer, I think there are a number of other practical things that we can also do in response as we continue on our ‘knees’.
First, is to reconnect as a family. We all live busy lives, and if you have children you’ll know just how hectic their weekly routine can become. Dropping them off at school, picking them up again, watching them play sport, overseeing their homework, and all of the hundred-and-one other things that goes along with raising them is wonderful, but exhausting.
But suddenly, that has all ceased. And the disruption to our schedules provides a wonderful opportunity for us to engage with our own flesh and blood, rather than to pass each other like proverbial ships in the night. What I’ve found is that it’s in particular, those unplanned moments of conversation which are the best for connecting with those we live in the same house with.
Second, is to redeem travel time. Over the coming months a major part of the community is going to working or studying from home. This obviously provides its own challenges regarding how productive — or if you’re now homeschooling, how stressed — we might be, but it’s obviously also going to reduce travel time. This means that we have to be both more disciplined with how we structure our days, but also presents us with an opportunity to redeem the extra hours when we would normally be in transit.
Third, is to become more confident with technology. If someone had of mentioned to me — even only a fortnight ago — about using Zoom, Jitsi or Telegram, I would have had no idea what they were talking about. Now, though, I’m using at least one of these platforms on a daily basis. And you know what? It actually works! While nothing beats meeting face-to-face, technological innovations like these really help us to stay connected while we’re all in lock down.
Fourth, is to reacquaint ourselves with reading. Too often our lives are so busy that we don’t have time to stop and think, let alone read a good book. With the extra time saved on travel, and also produced by the protocols involving social distancing, presents an excellent opportunity to dig into some good books that we might have been meaning to read, but have sadly neglected. There are many excellent resources available, and talking to a pastor or a trusted friend can really help in guiding you to the ones most worthy of your attention.
Fifth, is to reassess our commitment to church. Unfortunately, too many people see the church as the building. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a heritage-listed gothic cathedral or a modern, concrete and glass ‘dream-centre’. The physical building can all too often become more of a focus than the people who gather to meet inside (see 1 Peter 2:4-5). Now that all churches in Australia have been forbidden by the government to meet as we normally would, this gives us a great chance to put our attention on our fellow believers, especially those whom we might easily overlook.
Sixth, is to be flexible as to what corporate worship look like. It’s worth remembering that the early church didn’t have the luxury of meeting in purpose-built ‘houses of worship’. But that they met in people’s homes (e.g. Philemon 4). Due to the threat of further contagion even this is severely restricted to our immediate families. But there is something beautiful about meeting together in our homes to sing, pray and listen to God’s Word. While it’s not as ‘easy’ as what most of us normally do, it definitely helps us to confirm what’s truly important.
Seventh, is to come before God in humble repentance. You don’t have to go the “full-Folau” to acknowledge that this latest pandemic is part of His holy judgment (see Revelation 6:1-11). While it’s not necessarily against one specific sin, let alone one particular nation, the right response is to humble ourselves before Him, seeking to confess our wrongdoing and reform our ways. The words of the LORD spoken to Solomon at the dedication of the temple seem especially apt at this time for nations throughout the whole world:
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among My people, if My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
~ 2 Chronicles 7:13-14
Eighth, is to be intentional in caring for others. Many people’s schedules have been thrown in chaos, which means that not only are they not as busy as they were previously, but they are also more open to being contacted. Not that I’m suggesting ‘cold calls’ on complete strangers or anything like that. But now is the time that people are most open to being sent a text, receiving a call or responding to a virtual ‘face-to-face’. Without being creepy, take a risk and initiate.
Ninth, is to reaffirm our own trust in the Gospel. It’s times like these which really put our faith in God to the test. Do I believe what His Word says when it promises hope beyond the grave? (see John 14:1-3) What’s more, does the possibility of death fill me with a confident and joyful expectation, or an anxious and ominous dread? I heard a sermon recently where the pastor said:
It’s so hard to convince unbelievers that Christ has overcome death for us through His resurrection if we ourselves are terrified of death. (He then went on to quote a passage of Scripture which is not only worth quoting in full but should be reflected on deeply)
“Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is, the Devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
~ Hebrews 2:14-15
Tenth, is to tell people about Jesus. I’ve left the scariest, but also most important point, till the end. The same pastor also went on to say:
Imagine if you had the cure for the Coronavirus. You would want to share it with everyone, wouldn’t you? Well, we have something far greater. We have the good news of eternal life. The message of salvation that everyone who trusts in Christ’s death and resurrection will be forgiven of their sins.
He concluded his sermon with the exhortation that has to be our greatest social responsibility. And he’s right. For the current health crisis provides a great impetus to share the Gospel, because people are more open to considering their own mortality and the antidote to sin that only Jesus can provide.
In conclusion, we need to remember that God is still on His throne. He is in control of all of this. And He is working out His sovereign plan and purposes as we groan with the rest of creation awaiting of liberation from decay. Let us remember then that even in this, He is working all things together for good for those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
While COVID-19 is definitely bad for our bodies, how we respond to it can be profoundly good for our souls. And as the Prime Minister rightly said, the most important (and practical) thing of all we should do at this time is to pray! (1 Thess. 5:16-18)