COVID-19 and Gospel Urgency
America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is a polarizing topic that has resulted in seemingly endless disagreement and bickering. What a bizarre world we live in that I feel the need to start this off by making this statement: This is not a political post, nor is this about the coronavirus. The purpose of this post is to examine how we respond to the urgency of our gospel mission in comparison to our nation’s response to a global pandemic. There are a few parallels between the two that can be useful in restoring an urgent, eternal focus to our minds. These parallels have given rise to 3 key thoughts to meditate on as they relate to our mission as believers.
Thought #1: You Know What’s Coming
Look at the heat some of our politicians have taken for not taking more drastic action when they knew the coronavirus was coming. They have been accused of living “business as usual” when they knew this disaster was on its way. Others have been accused of intentionally downplaying the potential widespread effects of the virus because they selfishly did not want to alter the course of their own lives to protect others from the coming danger. According to the claims made against them, tens of thousands of infections and deaths could have been prevented if only these leaders had done something before it was too late. If it is true that any of them knew the danger of the pandemic before it arrived, how could they not warn us to take appropriate action in preparation?
Stop and think for a second. As a believer in Christ, what danger do you know is coming? You know that the wrath of God is coming for all who don’t believe, but are you living “business as usual”? Are you intentionally downplaying what is coming because you are too selfish to alter the course of your own life to protect others? How many people could you prevent from experiencing eternal punishment if you would warn them to take appropriate action in preparation before it’s too late? Could you be accused of the same thing as these politicians except on a much grander, eternal level? Don’t find yourself in that position. You have the cure. Give it out.
Thought #2: “You’re a COVID Doctor Now”
I read an article a few months ago in which the author exhorted all medical professionals saying, “You’re a COVID doctor now.” The point of the article was to emphasize that no matter your specialization or preferences, the current reality calls for an “all hands on deck” approach from anyone who is willing and able. You do brain surgery? Welcome to the COVID team. You specialize in treating certain types of cancer? Welcome to the COVID team. You are a nurse in training? Welcome to the COVID team. Should not the same concept be applied to the life plans of a believer in Jesus? The situation calls for it because it is much more severe than a global pandemic. You’re a lawyer? You’re an accountant? You’re a stay-at-home mom? Welcome to the team. You’re a disciple-making Christian now. This isn’t just the calling of a few or something to do on the side when you get time. It is the rallying cry of the church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against us.
Thought #3: What is “Drastic”?
A major response to an urgent matter is not considered “drastic” if the situation calls for it. You likely believe the pandemic has been vastly overplayed, underplayed, or somewhere in between. This largely depends on how dire you have decided the situation is. If it’s a non-issue to you, then shutting down the economy, wearing masks, and postponing events seems unnecessary. If you believe the pandemic is a great danger and a force to be reckoned with, you might believe the shutdowns and mask policies should simply be a starting point.
How dire do you believe the current state of our broken world is? How much of a problem is sin, death, and separation from God? Surely God’s glory among all people demands some urgency! We’ve changed everything about our lives because of the coronavirus. Is God’s mission worth the same response? We can argue all day about how real or fake the pandemic situation is, but the eternal reality of God’s mission is not up for debate. How seriously you take this mission will determine what you deem to be “drastic” action for the sake of the gospel. For those who do not take COVID seriously, a key argument is that only a tiny percentage of people actually die from the disease. If that percentage was higher, we would need to be more radical in our approach. You do not have that argument when it comes to sin and death. 100% of people on the earth are infected and will surely die. Can you shut down everything for that? For those who do take COVID seriously, a key argument is that many people are risking the lives of others all because they selfishly want to eat out or get a haircut. These risk-takers are simply unwilling to give up their own comforts for the sake of others. In the same way, how many billions of souls are we risking all because we want to live in a nice area of the world, have a secure income, raise a good family, and live comfortably? Jesus says in Mark 8:35 that “…whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” Dying for the gospel often seems like a radical concept to us because we fail to grasp the magnitude of the situation and the worthiness of our God.
Just to expand on the idea that the definition of “drastic” is determined by the severity of the situation, I want to share a story from a time I went fishing with my family at a friend’s lake house. My sister (Ashlee) and I were young, and it was before we had learned to swim. We all sat in lawn chairs along the dock with our fishing lines in the water. Suddenly, Ashlee’s line received a nibble and then a bite and then a forceful tug that lifted her from her chair and into the lake. Without thinking twice, my dad jumped straight into the water after her and pulled her out. In the process, he lost both of his shoes along with what I’m sure he would claim was a fish on his line. Did he overreact, or was that the appropriate action? Could his frantic leap into action be considered drastic? Most people would agree that the circumstance called for it, so let’s change up the story just a bit. Let’s say that Ashlee was not pulled into the water but that a fish simply got her worm. My dad has the same reaction. He jumps into the water and loses both shoes in an attempt to retrieve the piece of the worm that was not swallowed by the fish. Is that drastic? He did the same thing in both situations, but only one of the times is considered to be unnecessary.
Is there any level of action and sacrifice considered “unnecessary” when it comes to making the name of Jesus known among those who otherwise are perishing? In Acts 20:24, Paul says to the Ephesian elders, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” He also writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:10 saying, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” Paul’s only aim in life was to testify to the gospel, and he was willing to endure all things in order to do it. Given the eternal reality of the situation, this is not drastic. This should be the norm for followers of Christ, but we are wary of encouraging people toward it. For example, we often approve the heck out of a man who wishes to move his family away from home to pursue his next career step. We think of it as a great opportunity. But when a man wishes to move his family away from home to pursue God’s mission in the world, our first thought is “I hope he is sure. Can’t he do that here?” In the same way, we celebrate athletes who put their bodies on the line to win a game. But we shelter people from taking personal and professional risks to share the gospel, insisting that there must be a better way. The point is that we are willing to take drastic action and encourage others to do the same when we believe the situation calls for it. Whether it be COVID or anything else, the level of action we call “drastic” reveals what we truly believe about the situation. If we believe that the wrath of God is coming, there is one way of salvation, and Jesus is worthy to receive praise from every nation on the earth, then nothing we do in response to that can be defined as drastic. Unless, of course, we don’t believe it. As followers of Jesus, we are going to have to start sacrificing the “unsacrificeable”. The “givens” in our lives need to no longer be “givens”, but open to sacrifice for service to the King. After all, can we do anything more drastic than what Jesus already did to rescue us? He is our model and example.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Matthew 13:44
Selling everything for a field is foolish to those who have no knowledge of the treasure. But to the one who seeks the treasure, selling his possessions to purchase that field is the wisest thing he will ever do.