“To talk about the coronavirus or not talk about the coronavirus?” That is the question!
How do you feel? (About reading on! 😉 ) Is there are sense of exasperation? (“Oh no, not again! More fear mongering.) Is there a sense of relief almost? (“Finally the church is talking about what I’ve been thinking!”) Or maybe you’re bored … and have stopped reading. You just don’t know whether raising the topic will raises people’s anxieties or relieve them. I am writing this on Thursday and you will read this on Sunday (or later) and by then the situation will have changed because it is a changing situation. We may have moved from the ‘contain’ phase to the ‘delay’ phase and there will be more things to face.
I am not predicting the future but it is interesting to talk about how we assess risk. In ‘church circles’ – and I was at a Churches Together in England Heads of Churches and Associated Bodies meeting 10 days ago – I have heard a breadth of responses from God will not let us be harmed (eg. in worship or at Holy Communion) through to we must take every precaution imaginable (which, I suppose, a poor expression of that is the panic buying of certain items). Where do people of faith walk in such times? More importantly for us, how do Christians follow Jesus in such times?
My general answer is with ‘sanctified common sense’. Churches have lightning rods on their buildings and have cleaning procedures at the distribution right now – pre COVID-19 – and no Lutheran theology that I know of supports actively following Mark 16:18 (about picking up snakes and drinking poison) because we understand the world God has made in certain ways. At the same time we also accept the truth – believe the truth – trust the truth – that there is a God – that Jesus has revealed God to us – and God is active in the world and he does work in ways that the world doesn’t understand (mysteriously through words, water, bread and wine) and in other ways that we find hard to explain (answers to prayers, miracles, those strange coincidences). We believe this world is not a massive mechanised cause-and-effect which means that fear reigns as we do our best to dodge all the bad causes.)
We are not fool hardy just as we’re are not controlled by fear. We seek to be faithful to Jesus because he is faithful to us – and with us – and with this perspective we assess the world around us – be that the person next to us, a relationship, a situation and respond with the desire to serve. If people are afraid, we seek to comfort and not alarm. If there is a need, we seek to help wisely. If people are foolish, we might advise, counsel, even admonish. The point is we are looking out for others rather than being consumed with ourselves. We want to be good neighbours because Jesus teaches us that life and living is about serving others. The truth, of course, is that Jesus more than teaches! He gives us his life so that we may live following him – not foolhardy and not terrified – but trusting him while we use sanctified common sense. GS