It’s an understatement to say that the last couple of weeks have been crazy. As the Coronavirus has swept across the globe, panic has begun to set in for many people.
Fear is rising. Uncertainty abounds.
This is a crisis on a global scale, and the measures we have been required to take to stem the tide are unprecedented, at least in recent memory. I can’t remember a time in my life when all of the churches in my area cancelled an in-person Sunday gathering, let alone multiple weeks in a row (we don’t have snow days in SoCal). I can’t recall a time ever going to the grocery store to only see completely empty aisles. I’ve never been restricted from meeting or spending time in a public space like a coffee shop or library.
The streets are empty. It definitely feels eerie.
For many, they are fearing for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. For others, they are fearing for their livelihood, as health restrictions have forced many businesses to close down for an indefinite period of time.
These fears are real. They’re legitimate. And they’re causing people to panic.
But it’s during times like these, when things are tough, that Christians have an opportunity to show how our faith affects our perspective. Into the midst of the panic, the Church has an opportunity to speak words of life, and actually live those words out.
So while the world is panicking, here are 3 things that Christians can be doing.
1. Be calm.
Take one look at the supermarkets, and you’ll see that our communities could benefit from a calming presence. This past weekend, I went to pick up some groceries, as I do every weekend. I was alarmed by how empty the shelves were. It made me so discouraged. And not because I didn’t get to buy everything I normally do (though I am a little bummed about currently not having any eggs to eat for breakfast).
But what I found discouraging is the level of panic and fear everyone must have been feeling. The empty aisles told a story, and it wasn’t a happy one.
People cleared out the entire store, because a deep sense of fear had stricken them. And fear and panic are a vicious cycle. People panic and empty the shelves. Then people see the empty shelves and panic further. So when the supermarket restocks items, they panic buy up all those items too for fear of them being picked over. Which, in turn, leads to the shelves being empty again.
And the only thing driving this cycle is fear. So Christians need to be countercultural here.
If we rise to the level of panic we see around us, we will only add to it. Panic begets panic. But the good news is that calm also begets calm. So be calm. Be reasonable. Don’t panic buy enough food to feed 20 people for the next 60 days (unless you have teenagers at home and that’s a normal Costco run for you).
Do not–and I repeat, do not–operate out of fear or in response to hysteria.
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take necessary safety precautions, or that you shouldn’t be concerned at all. I strongly encourage you to adhere to the recommendations and requests of the CDC and the government–both the federal government, as well as your state and local leaders.
But you can do all those things and still be calm. Christians are meant to be people of order. That’s what Paul tells the church in Corinth.
“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)
Being panicked and unruly is not the Christian way. When others panic, we stay calm. We think clearly. Because we serve the God who is in control, even when it feels like everything is out of control.
2. Be hopeful and share your hope with others.
Crisis and tragedy have always been a part of the human story. But victory in the midst of darkness has always been a part of the Christian story. So Christians can have this almost bizarre sense of hope and fearlessness, even in the face of mortal danger.
But it’s only bizarre if you don’t understand the power and safety we have in Jesus. Our perspective is eternal. So while we build into our lives here, we know that our security isn’t found in the safety or prosperity we’re able to attain in this life. And we know that when we die, that’s when life really begins.
There’s a unique kind of confidence that belongs to the person who truly believes that they have life everlasting in Jesus. That’s why Paul says that we don’t fear death.
We don’t “grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13).
It’s during times like these when we have the most incredible opportunities to share our faith with others. It’s low hanging fruit, really. When someone you care about expresses why they’re so afraid, let them know where your confidence comes from. Share the hope that Jesus gives you.
People are open. In times of crisis, people are always searching for faith. Share yours.
3. Be generous.
Fear causes people to clench their fists. Panic makes them hold onto what they have just a little bit tighter. And it’s only natural. All humans have a natural instinct to protect themselves in times of crisis.
But Christians have a supernatural instinct to look out for the needs of others. The New Testament speaks often about how Christians are to be guided by the same kind of self-sacrifice and care for others that’s characteristic of Jesus himself.
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:4-8)
Jesus went to his death out of his love for people. He laid literally everything he had down for the sake of others. How are we to do any less, even as we face our fears in the midst of a crisis?
While the world hunkers down and hoards what it has, we open up our hands to give freely to those around us who have need. While others look out for their own best interest, we sacrificially give from what we have to make sure the needs of others are cared for.
Give. Be generous. And as you care for the physical needs of others, especially those who don’t know Jesus, they will begin to see the beauty of his message by looking at your life.
This is our time to shine.
The light of Jesus shines brightest when things are at their darkest. And things are pretty dark right now. People are sick. People are dying. People are out of work. People are isolated.
We wouldn’t wish any of this on anybody. But it’s in times like these when we have the opportunity to rise up and show the love of Jesus in truly transformative ways. So don’t let this crisis push you into fear, panic, and inaction. Let this crisis activate your faith. Find ways to shine the light of Jesus. Your time is now.