What is a Christian action response to the pandemic of Coronavirus? In my previous blog, I shared the perspective of of three Christian leaders. A second way to explore this issue leads us to ask how, as Christians, do we act? How do we put our faith into deeds? As author Phil Yancey reminds us, the early Christians went into action, caring for the sick in the many Roman pandemics. So, “What is a Christian answer to the Coronavirus?” in action? As a result of their faith in Jesus, what do Christians do?
Christian Action In Response to Leprosy
Phil Yancey’s experience is instructive. As a journalist, he says, “I have traveled to some 87 countries, and in most of them you can follow the trail of Christian missionaries by the hospitals, clinics, and orphanages they founded. I wrote books such as Fearfully and Wonderfully with the esteemed leprosy specialist Dr. Paul Brand. Virtually every advance in the understanding and treatment of that disease came from Christian missionaries—not because they were the best physicians and scientists, but because they were the only ones willing to treat that misunderstood and dreaded disease.”
What made Christian caregivers unique? “Following Jesus’ example,” says Yancey, “they risked exposure by reaching out to the leprosy-afflicted.” The history of Christians in crises is that of stepping into the breach.
Christian Action In Response to Pandemic: Online
Christians also have responded on a church-wide level. Unable to meet in person, and with people, scared for their life, Christians have responded by strengthening their online presence. “I think we have an opportunity, actually, to engage at a deeper level,” Judah Smith, lead pastor of Churchome in Seattle and Los Angeles, said. “We’re finding that actually being home, engaging face-to-face is going to lead us actually to an interesting place in faith and I think will change how we worship going forward.”
To “join,” a person has only to download the Churchome app. Once logged in, you are now a “member.” The congregation, as a result of this, has grown by 110 percent. Attendance is up 139 percent, and “Pastor Chat” usage has increased by 40 percent. “This is an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and learn to love your neighbor as yourself,” Smith said. “I think church at home and church in smaller settings is going to be a massive trend going for many, many years.”
An Alternate Christian Response: Doing Less; Serving Better
Esau McCaulley, assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College (IL), takes an opposite tack: serving better by doing less. “What did the church do in the year of our Lord 2020,” he asks, “when sickness swept our land? We met in smaller groups, washed our hands and prayed. Unglamorous as this is, it may be the shape of faithfulness in our time.” Our model for these actions spring from the same model as that which motivated the early Christians: Jesus.
“The all-powerful empties himself of power to become a child. Jesus as king does not conquer his enemies through violence, he converts them to his cause by meeting violence with sacrificial love.” “The church’s absence, its literal emptying, can function as a symbol of its trust in God’s ability to meet us regardless of the location.”
The Ultimate Christian Action In Response to Coronavirus Pandemic? Self-Sacrificial Death
Father Guiseppi Berardelli, 72, diagnosed with COVID-19 virus, lived at the St. Joseph Retirement Home in Casnigo, Northern Italy. When he heard of a younger man, who suffered from the disease, but who was without a ventilator, he donated his. His parishioners had raised the money to pay for Fr. Berardelli’s life-saving equipment. The priest died March 15, 2020.
“Father Giuseppe Berardelli died as a priest,” said one of the healthcare workers at the Saint Joseph retirement home. “I am profoundly moved by the fact that he, as archpriest of Casnigo, freely renounced his respirator to give it to someone younger than him.” He died also, of course, as a Christian. Reports are that over 50 other priests died, assisting others during their illness. Able to confront their own death in the faith of Christ, these men sacrificed that others might live.
Christians have thought deeply about the reality of tragedy and what should be our response to it. Some Christians have shared thoughts which show profound depth in relating our tenuous life with the Eternal Sovereign God. But that has never been enough. Jesus’ example in his care for the sick and dying, has motivated Christians to put saving themselves second to caring for others. For his followers, his death on the cross has removed the sting of death. The impact of Jesus’ life on us is profound. How do you think about the Coronavirus pandemic? What will you do?
[Sources Images- Coronavirus: The Cleveland Clinic. Father Berardelli: Oratorio Casnigo/Facebook. Breitbart.com https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/14/opinion/coronavirus-church-close.html https://www.breitbart.com/health/2020/03/24/italian-priest-dies-from-coronavirus-after-giving-up-ventilator-to-another-patient/# https://philipyancey.com/living-in-plague-times https://www.foxnews.com/faith-values/coronavirus-online-ministry-jesus-questions-search