Disclaimer: This is not intended as a comprehensive response, but a starting point for encouragement in the faith as the body of Christ. Also, this is written in the context of the Australia and its present situation.
I have no doubt some of you are afraid or worried about the Coronavirus. The WHO declared this a global pandemic. However, I want to speak to you briefly about how we as Christians respond.
Let me share with you some thoughts from the apostle Peter:
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor.1 Peter 2:11-17 (NIV)
1. We are foreigners and exiles
Some translations use the word, sojourner. We’re passing through in this world. Jesus reminds us that he chose us out of the world (John 15:19). Our home and security are in heaven with God. It isn’t here on this earth.
As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.John 15:19b (NIV)
2. Live good lives
Live such good lives in the world (v. 12a), why? So they might glorify God (v. 12b). What does this look like? The world responds in fear, we do not. The supermarket shelves are emptied from daily necessities.
Jesus tells us not to worry like the world:
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.— Matthew 6:31-34 (NIV; emphasis mine)
God knows what you need. Buy what you need, but do not respond in fear. In this time of chaos, we can respond with care and generosity for our neighbours. This is a time to do good. Think of others in need. God knows what you need. What’s more, Peter tells us by doing good you silence the ignorant talk of foolish people (v. 15).
3. Submit to human authority
We must remember God is ultimately sovereign. He is ultimate source of all authority on heaven and on earth, delegating it to earthly authorities and governments (Romans 13:1-7).
Behind the politicians, there are people concerned with the welfare of the country and people. They are monitoring the situation to the best of their ability. They are providing government departments with recommendations about how to respond.
God calls us to submit and pray for our leaders. Whether or not you agree with them, they need our prayers and God’s help.
It does no one any good to complain about the government. It does no good to compare them to other countries. Other countries deal with different circumstances. Same virus, different conditions. Pray for them.
You may have heard some churches suspending their public gatherings. Currently, at the time of writing, the advice to restrict meetings only applies to groups larger than 500 people or health care and emergency professionals.
Otherwise, the recommendation is simply to maintain good personal hygiene. If you are unable to access the government recommendations, please let us know and we will provide you with the relevant information.
4. Love one another
Love one another. After all I have said, there will still be those who are afraid, unsure, or worried. That’s okay. This is why the church exists. This should be a place where we encourage and support one another through the ups and downs of life.
Paul reminds us:
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.Romans 14:1-3 (NIV)
A few verses later, he will remind us not to put a stumbling block before our brothers and sisters (Romans 14:13b).
Brothers and sisters, criticisms and judgments are unhelpful. Seek to love one another in action and words of grace.
For the sake of others—one might isolate themselves, refrain from sharing communal food, feel obliged to wearing a mask—let them do so in good conscience.
If anyone is in genuine need, please let the church know how we can support you. This is no time for saving face, let us help you.
In closing, “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the [government].” (v. 17; contextual change mine).