Here is a summary of a little book worth reading. It is entitled Coronavirus and Christ and is written by John Piper. You can access it here:
“What is God doing through the coronavirus?” While John Piper does not claim these answers to be exhaustive, it is a reminder to us that God is at work in this moment in history.
Through the coronavirus God is …
1. Picturing Moral Horror
2. Sending Specific Divine Judgments
3. Awakening Us for the Second Coming
4. Realigning Us with the Infinite Worth of Christ
5. Creating Good Works in Danger
The coronavirus is God’s call to his people to overcome self-pity and fear, and with courageous joy, to do the good works of love that glorify God.
Jesus taught his followers to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). What is often not noticed is that being the salt of the earth and the light of the world in this way was the more salty and the more bright because the good deeds were to be done even in the midst of suffering.
Piper refers to church history with the two plagues to hit the Roman Empire in AD 165 and AD 251 and provides the following from Rodney Starks book The Triumph of Christianity:
Therefore, while a third of the empire was perishing from disease, physicians fled to their country estates. Those with symptoms were cast out of homes. Priests forsook the temples. But Stark observes, “Christians claimed to have answers and, most of all, they took appropriate actions.”
As for the actions, large numbers of Christians cared for the sick and the dying. Toward the end of the second plague, Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria wrote a letter, extolling the members of his church:
Most of our brothers showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy.
Two centuries later, when the Roman emperor Julian (AD 332–363) wanted to breathe new life back into the ancient Roman religion and saw Christianity as a growing threat, he wrote, in frustration, to the Roman high priest of Galatia:
Atheism [i.e., Christian faith] has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans [i.e., Christians] care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.
God has his work to do—much of it secret. We have ours. If we trust him and obey his word, he will cause his sovereignty and our service to accomplish his wise and good purposes.
6. Loosening Roots to Reach the Nations
In the coronavirus God is loosening the roots of settled Christians, all over the world, to make them free for something new and radical and to send them with the gospel of Christ to the unreached peoples of the world
Connecting the coronavirus with missions may seem like a strange idea, because in the short run, the coronavirus is shutting down travel and migration and missionary advance. But I am not thinking short term. God has used the suffering and upheaval of history to move his church to places it needs to go. I am suggesting that he will do that again as part of the long-term impact of the coronavirus.
We may think the coronavirus outbreak is a setback for world missions. I doubt it. God’s ways often include apparent setbacks that result in great advances.
On January 9, 1985, Pastor Hristo Kulichev, a Congregational pastor in Bulgaria, was arrested and put in prison. His crime was that he preached in his church even though the state had appointed another man as pastor whom the congregation did not elect. His trial was a mockery of justice. And he was sentenced to eight months in prison. During his time in prison, he made Christ known in every way he could.
When he got out, he wrote, “Both prisoners and jailers asked many questions, and it turned out that we had a more fruitful ministry there than we could have expected in church. God was better served by our presence in prison than if we had been free.”
This is often God’s way. The global scope and seriousness of the coronavirus is too great for God to waste. It will serve his invincible global purpose of world evangelization. Christ has not shed his blood in vain. And Revelation 5:9 says that by that blood he ransomed “people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” He will have the reward of his suffering. And even pandemics will serve to complete the Great Commission.
One more post, a prayer in light of these accomplishments of God during the coronavirus. God be with you.