“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
A lot has changed since I last sat down to write. A microscopic virus has made its way across our world and with it has brought loss of health, jobs, life, and, for many, a loss of peace.
I remember sitting in front of the television as a little girl watching the funeral of President John F. Kennedy. As a five year old, the two young children standing with their mother dressed in black from head to toe and the tears streaming down my mother’s face made an impact on me. Our country mourned the loss of a beloved leader.
I, like countless others, remember exactly where I was on September 11, 2001. Shock, grief, panic, and anger swept across our land as, over and over again, we watched harrowing images of jet airliners exploding into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. But during the days following those two national crises, we never witnessed anything like the widespread anxiety and paralyzing fear we are seeing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many unknowns and unanswered questions that have created uneasiness and, for some, a sense of complete helplessness. We are bombarded day and night with alarming news reports, heart-wrenching photos, and fear-inducing personal accounts on social media. So, some might ask, how in the world is it possible to have peace in the midst of all this bad news. As Christians we should not only be able to answer that question, but also be a living demonstration of it. Believers who display a calm trust in their heavenly Father can be a source of peace to unbelievers who have no idea where to look for hope during these distressing days. Those of us who follow Christ should not be in a panic as if everything were out of control. Although we have no power to stop a deadly pathogen, we know the One who has complete control over every microbe in the universe. The Lord Jesus said we would have trouble in this world, but gave us assurance that we could find peace in Him. Because we have been redeemed by His blood we can walk in peace even in the midst of a devastating pandemic.
That does not mean we shouldn’t be prudent. Indeed, we ought to be diligent to follow proper guidelines to protect ourselves and others. As Martin Luther wrote during the bubonic plague, “… I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others… If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely … this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
Trusting God doesn’t mean we are careless or foolish, but at the end of the day we rest in the comforting reality that our lives are in the strong and capable hands of our kind Father. As Christian believers, our response should stand in stark contrast to those who sit glued to the news outlets, surrounded by their hoarded stash of goods and incapacitated by fear. But our example ought to go beyond a confident reliance on our God. We should be conduits of mercy as we minister to others, conciliators of peace as we refuse to be drawn into divisive and unprofitable arguments, and messengers of hope as we faithfully share a gospel that cannot be quarantined.
Throughout history Christians have been known to sacrifice health, fortune, and their lives for the good of others and the advancement of the gospel. I’m sure we have all been blessed by extraordinary models of this in recent days. We’ve observed doctors and nurses coming out of retirement or leaving their jobs and families to staff overrun hospitals. Pharmacists, grocery store personnel, bankers, postal workers, and others are risking their own, as well as, their families’ health to insure the items we need are available. After being asked what he would do with his stimulus check, a friend who owns a small business responded that he would be passing it along to his employees. He added that because the Lord had blessed his business, his intention is to see that those who work for him will still receive pay checks. Volunteers are shopping and delivering groceries and medicine to the elderly and immune compromised, donating blood, and making face masks, hand sanitizer and other items to provide for others. I’ve been encouraged by what I see in my own community as neighbors are checking on each other, praying for one another, and bringing encouragement in creative ways.
However, in contrast, I’ve read numerous testimonies of those working in grocery stores who have had to deal with an onslaught of rudeness, selfishness, and outright pandemonium. It takes no great effort to let our lights shine by simply exhibiting kindness. As the hands of Jesus, we should be extending comfort and hope to those who are sick, grieving, and fearful. The Scripture instructs us to love our neighbors (Leviticus 19:18; Romans 13:8), and Jesus taught that we should show mercy to everyone (Luke 10:25-37). In these and so many other ways Christians can put the gospel on display by doing just that.
But, we shouldn’t stop there. If we only give our friends food and medicine, but they die without ever having been warned of the eternal danger they are in, we have dreadfully failed. This is an opportune time to share the glorious hope that is possible through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus on the cross. Scores of people are more frightened than they’ve ever been, and consequently, more open to truth. Ephesians 2:12-14 reminds us, “…at that time you were without Christ, having no hope and without God … But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace.” It is urgent that we who once had no hope, tell others of the only source of lasting hope and peace. We dare not waste this divinely orchestrated time.
As followers of Christ we should not only be ministering to the fearful and spiritually lost, but we must encourage and strengthen our brothers and sisters in the faith as well. This should not be a time to attack one another because some churches decide to continue to meet, while others don’t. A perplexed world is watching as Christians insult and sarcastically respond to each other on public platforms. Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). I’m not suggesting that constitutional rights, government policies, and secondary theological issues aren’t important. I’m simply saying that now is not the time to passionately quarrel over those things before a watching world that is frantically seeking answers. The gospel is at stake, and that’s infinitely more important.
As we humbly serve others, present gospel truth, and seek unity, we are displaying that peace we are privileged to enjoy in Christ. Ephesians 2:14 assures us that Christ Himself is our peace. In these tumultuous times, may those who bear the name of the Prince of Peace live as courageous and compassionate models of divine peace for His glory.
Soli Deo Gloria