COVID-19: An Opportunity To Demonstrate Compassion
How should Christians and Christian churches respond to the global Covid-19 pandemic?
I’d like to encourage us to see this crisis as an opportunity unlike any in our lifetime—an opportunity to love and serve our neighbors who are gripped by fear and anxiety, who are isolated, who need help.
In earlier times, pandemics like Covid-19 were called “plagues.” We’ve never experienced a global plague like this one, but it certainly isn’t new in human history.
Pandemics and all forms of disease are a consequence of the fall. Like floods and earthquakes, they are what theologians refer to as “natural evil.” The Apostle Paul speaks about natural evil in Romans 8:21-23. God is certainly not indifferent towards such evil. Christ died on the cross to conquer evil once and for all.
Yet in this time between the cross and Christ’s final return, evil continues to be a heartbreaking reality. Why? Certainly not because God is powerless over evil, or because He lacks compassion. He delays His final judgement over evil out of mercy. God is “patient … not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
But His patience won’t last forever. When Jesus returns, evil will be eradicated, wounds mended, tears wiped away; the world will be made right again.
We look forward to this glorious day, and until then, we remember that God is more powerful than evil. He works through it to accomplish good, to fulfill His purposes in history. He is doing that right now.
With this in mind, how do we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Unmatched love in the early church
In the days of the early church, terrible plagues swept through the Roman Empire. Thousands, perhaps millions, died. The church responded incredibly. They loved their unbelieving neighbors sacrificially, caring for those who contracted the disease even at the cost of their own lives. They did this because God loved them so much that He gave up His own son that they might live. He called them to respond to that amazing love and grace by loving their neighbors—even those abandoned and dying alone on the streets from the plagues.
That takes great courage, but they had such courage because they no longer feared death!
Christ’s resurrection conquered death. As His beloved children, they knew that there was life beyond the grave. Here’s how the Apostle Peter described this blessed hope:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:3-5
Selfless love impacted the world and the church
The fearless, sacrificial love and service the early church demonstrated was absolutely unprecedented in human history. Rodney Stark, in his magnificent book The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries, demonstrates that the response of the early church to these plagues was the central catalyst for its exponential growth, to the point where the entire Roman Empire was transformed by the love of Christ!
This clip is from our Coram Deo Basics Course. I encourage you to go through the entire course.
The German manuscript of the Coram Deo Basic Course can be found here. You can download the manuscript free of charge as a PDF document or order it printed, bound as a book, at cost price.
How can you and your church demonstrate this same sacrificial, fearless compassion right now? How can you show compassion in a way that God might use to transform the world today?
What is He calling you to do in response to the COVID-19 crisis?
Who are the people in your own neighborhood or community who are frightened, isolated, and lonely, who need hope and encouragement and help?
This is an opportunity for the church to rise up unlike any I’ve seen in my lifetime. Let’s not miss this opportunity.
President, Disciple Nations Alliance