I could not give a more succinct response to the coronavirus panic than what the title already says. We need to treat this virus calmly but seriously. That’s the opposite of what is happening right now. Some take it too seriously, to the point of panicking and become selfishly irrational to the point buying out all of the toilet paper. The world is not going to end, but it truly feels like an Apocalyptic Black Friday with how everyone is acting. Others take it too lightly, comparing it to the flu and pointing out (albeit correctly) that this has not caused more deaths in the United States. The crucial qualification is yet. It hasn’t caused more deaths, yet. But the issue isn’t over the current death rate but the exponential rate at which it has the potential to spread, and then the higher death rate which is from 1-2% [source] compared to the swine flu’s death rate of 0.02%. In fact, it could even be worse than those numbers. We don’t have enough data to be certain. It’s particularly dangerous because it can remain hidden for 14 days without symptoms.
As Christians, we need to be concerned for our neighbor. We need to love our neighbors just as we would love ourselves. Even if it’s just a cold or a flu, we wouldn’t want to shake hands with a person who has it. None of us enjoy being sick. We’d stay away from others in hopes of not spreading it to others. How much more should our response be to a virus like this? If you had a grandma or a daughter who had a weak immune system, would you not be worried for their well-being? Every life matters. My concern here is that some on the calmer side of this issue are perhaps too complacent. You don’t need to downplay the severity of this virus to justify being calm. We should still be calm because most people will not die from this, but we should also be factual and realize that this is worse than the flu. It’s easy to be complacent when we just treat the death rate as a small statistic or if we know it will not affect us and those we care about. But that’s not the attitude we’re commanded to have.
The Power of Fear
On the other hand, as Christians we are commanded to not live in fear. As Henry Longfellow said, “The grave itself is but a covered bridge, Leading from light to light, through a brief darkness!” Those we seek to save their lives will lose it. So do not cling so desperately to your life as many people have. God is sovereign over everything, including this disease. He will use it to accomplish His purpose. As Paul said, it is better to die “and be with Christ, which is far better indeed.” To live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil 1:21). People act as if we only get to live once. If this is true then surely there is reason to fear, but as Christians we have a hope that the unbeliever does not have: eternal life. Nevertheless, being fearless of death does not mean we should not take precautions. God wants us to care for our health because our bodies are a temple of God. I should note that having some fear is good. Obviously it is otherwise God would not have placed that emotion in our hearts. We are to fear God, for example. And it makes sense that we would fear touching fire or coming across a dangerous animal because that fear can be used to protect our lives. But the difference is that we do not let that fear control us or define our future.
Frankly, it’s absolutely amazing to me just how stupid and selfish people can be. Fear is a powerful, stupifying force. Why in the world is there a need to buy up all the toilet paper and water? People will needlessly suffer because of their ridiculous hoarding. In fact, it seems like more people will suffer from this selfishness than from the virus itself. If we react this badly toward a virus, what about something with a much higher death rate? We would all be killing each other! To me this just demonstrates the depravity of man. But being callous can just as well prove our depravity as well. We are not as good as we like to think we are. This is serious. We should wash our hands, keep contact to a minimum, and go on our with peace in our hearts knowing that whatever the outcome, all things will work out for our good. More importantly, let’s pray and repent of our sins. When Jesus was asked if the sins of those who died in tower were worse sinners, He said, “No, I tell you. But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Surely then this should be a time to come to God before it’s too late.
What We Should Do
So people, you all need to keep calm, wash your hands, stay home, and pray. Stay home if you’re sick, reduce travel to a bare minimum, avoid large groups, wash your hands, and sanitize your areas. Do all that you can to protect others. Pray and fast for this nation. As long as we do this, this virus will more than likely go away and it’ll be back to life as usual. Don’t be hysterical, but don’t get cocky and believe it can’t get worse either. It may just end up like the other viruses (SARS, Ebola, Swine, etc) but we can’t be willing to risk that. Share with others who do not have the provisions that you do. Do grocery shopping for people with weaker immune systems. Do all that you can to show the love and peace of Christ through your life no matter the circumstances. Proclaim the good news to those who are perishing and comfort those who are in the faith. Blessed are those who do these things!