Last weekend there were news reports about churches changing some of their practices due to the risks of the corona virus. Some forsook their usual method of warmly greeting each other with hugs. Others dispensed with the observation of Holy Communion or altered the manner in which they participated in it. I was told by a member of one church that instead of shaking hands last Sunday they all simply bumped elbows. I guess Paul’s instructions to greet one another with a holy kiss would especially be frowned upon in our current environment.
I’ll confess that I did very little differently than usual, although that may change as the situation evolves. I still shook hands or hugged people. However, just as at any other time, I wouldn’t have done so in connection with anyone coughing, sneezing, or otherwise showing signs of sickness. And I always wash my hands after those gatherings, or at least certainly before I get lunch afterwards. I try to make a habit of using good hygiene and taking reasonable precautions no matter whether there are specific threats of viruses or not.
So how should our faith affect the way in which we react to perceived threats to our wellbeing? We face this question at times not only in relation to possible pandemics, but also concerning terrorist attacks, foreign leaders who threaten to target us with nuclear missiles, as well as more personal situations some of us may encounter. Do we panic? Do we ignore the problem? Do we run and hide? Or do we throw all caution to the wind and trust God to take care of us as we run courageously into the brunt of the storm?
First of all, there’s a place to have the faith of the psalmist in God’s protection. “Surely He shall deliver you…from the perilous pestilence…You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness” (Psalm 91:3-6). As believers in Christ we can commit ourselves to God’s care and can trust Him to watch over us. However, that doesn’t mean I unnecessarily test God’s protective power by arrogantly or carelessly walking out into the middle of a busy highway. He still expects me to use the common sense He gave me and to exercise reasonable caution. Even though God delivered Paul when he was bitten by a poisonous snake, it doesn’t mean I should intentionally handle a venomous creature with the expectation that He will also spare me from the consequences of such a reckless act.
It’s also helpful if we can seek out and focus on the facts, trying to discern the reality of the situation rather than getting caught up in the emotional hype. Let’s not be led astray by those who may be putting their spin on the truth for political reasons or personal gain. Let’s neither underestimate the scope of the problem nor succumb to an irrational panic.
While we hope to be able to keep going about the business of living our lives, it’s wise to listen to recommendations being made by those who are knowledgeable and to take commonsense precautions. However, let’s remember that our ultimate trust isn’t in the authorities, the medical experts, or our own efforts. In the end, we’re all in God’s wise and loving hands.
So let’s trust the Lord to either protect us from whatever is inducing the current fear or to be with us as we endure whatever hardships and uncertainties we may have to face. In both cases we can let our faith in Him keep us from being overcome by our fears and anxieties. In one way or another, He will see us through.