Return to 1st Quarter 2021 articles.
Thanks to vaccines, we now have hope that medical science will bring COVID-19 under control in 2021. This pandemic has been a unique experience, although some of us remember other plagues and disease epidemics in our lifetimes. As a child I lost classmates and friends to polio. I remember how people reacted to polio and to the vaccine that finally stopped that horrible disease. Iron lungs and post-polio syndrome went on for many years after the threat of contracting the disease had ended.
In the days of Jesus, similar problems existed. Leprosy was a major health threat, and its control came about by biblically-prescribed quarantine practices. The COVID-19 pandemic was a new experience for most of us, and the way people reacted was new for all of us. There are some powerful lessons to learn as we look back at the pandemic reactions of 2020.
LESSON 1. People, including Christians, do not trust science.
From the beginning of the pandemic, scientists warned the public about what the virus could do and what we needed to do to control it. They repeatedly emphasized that we must wear a mask, avoid large gatherings (especially indoors), and socially distance to slow the virus's spread. Now that vaccines are available, medical people tell us that we should take the vaccine to stop the disease.
It is important to note that God has not guaranteed us personal political freedom. Paul, Peter, Timothy, and John the Baptist spent time in prison and lived in obedience to Roman law (see Romans 13.) We have freedom in Christ, but it is spiritual freedom, not civic physical freedom.
This ministry is dedicated to the proposition that science and faith are friends. Some in the religious community have opposed this ministry, believing that science is an enemy of faith. The hypocrisy of this view is apparent. We go to the doctor when we are sick. We have huge hospitals that apply the latest medical science to our bodies. We allow doctors to cut our bodies open to correct physical ailments, and we take chemicals into our bodies to restore health or keep us healthy. In all of those areas, we trust medical science and those who practice it. But when medical science tells us we need to do certain things to avoid a pandemic, we become skeptics. We do not trust and turn our backs on medical science, and that is inconsistent.
Medical science has pushed our life expectancy to nearly twice what it was in the days of Jesus. We can deny what science tells us or what God tells us, but that does not make it untrue. The word “science” means knowledge. Jesus and Paul repeatedly appealed to the people of their day to use the knowledge they had to find their way to obedience to God. If we think there is a conflict between science and what we read in God's word, we need to look more carefully. Either we have bad science or bad theology or both. The lesson of history has been that there has been a lot of both. God is the source of all knowledge, and God is the source of the Bible. They cannot possibly conflict since they have the same author.
LESSON 2. Violating God's instructions always produces pain, and for many, God is a scapegoat.
As you read the Old Testament and the instructions God gave Israel, one thing stands out. Modern medical science shows us that many of those instructions are practices that avoided pandemics and disease. We see the wisdom of not drinking blood and the restrictions on certain foods, especially animals. The use of quarantine and the structure of the family also make good sense scientifically. Science tells us that there are animal origins for the pandemics humans have endured. Alternative lifestyles have produced STDs of all kinds, and drugs have had a massive effect on mental health.
At the same time, the pandemic has given skeptics a tool to attack God. Every time there is a human decision that brings pain and suffering to many people, skeptics blame God. We need to remind ourselves that the COVID-19 virus did not come from God, but from human actions. The current pandemic has shown that greed, selfishness, and desire for power have brought suffering through ignoring science. We have seen the heart-wrenching pictures of those who have lost a parent, child, sibling, or mate to the virus. Much of this has come from people putting their own desires above the advice of medical science. It has not come from God or his biblical instructions.
LESSON 3. Given the choice of pleasure with a high risk of death or taking care of our bodies, many people will choose pleasure.
In November 2020, America entered the holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas. The news channels showed medical scientists and workers begging people not to hold events where many people would be close together. However, concerts and social gatherings, public eating establishments, and airline seats were filling even though the COVID-19 virus was at pandemic levels. Hospitals became at or beyond capacity, and some officials called out the National Guard to take care of the bodies of people who had died. Our culture has become so pleasure-oriented and so far from Christ's instructions to love and care for each other that a large part of our population chose to put their desires first.
Why does it take the deaths of massive numbers of people to get us to listen to God and follow his instructions about how we should live? This planet's history is full of human excesses and the ultimate disasters that come from making pleasure one's god (see Romans 1:21-32).
LESSON 4. Isolation displays family strengths and weaknesses.
It has been interesting to notice how different people in different family relationships react to being quarantined. Some people have enjoyed a wonderful experience of being with family. Others have been angry and frustrated at being confined with people they do not enjoy. Many have been lonely because they live alone, and family members cannot come to see them. Some essential workers had nobody to stay with their kids so they could work. Many have been unable to work because their workplace was closed, and they struggled to pay their bills and feed their families.
We have used Zoom to conduct church worship services and distant family interaction for most of the pandemic. We have found both to be a deeply satisfying way to maintain church family and blood family interactions. The technology of our day allows us to participate in church meetings even in the safety and privacy of our own homes. Those religious people who feel that observing quarantine rules prohibits Christian worship do not understand that the church is not a building. Worship can happen at any place at any time. Praying together, being informed about others' wellbeing, organizing help to those in need, and encouraging each other are incredible ways to strengthen our families and church relationships.
Ephesians 5 and 6 give family instructions that we should follow at all times, but they become essential in the pandemic. We do not need big auditoriums with large numbers of seats to worship God. Boredom and not having things to do should not happen in Christian families. Our family activities should strengthen and unite us. The pandemic gave us a chance to see how our families function and where we need to improve.
LESSON 5. Spiritual strength enables both physical and emotional survival.
Our son Tim who has multiple handicaps of blindness, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and mental challenges, lived in a group home. He contracted the COVID-19 virus from a worker in the home. The virus's attack was brutal, and Tim spent a week in the hospital, not expected to survive. As I tried to discuss with him what was happening, his attention turned to what lay ahead. He spoke of being able to see and seeing his mother, who passed away in 2008. He talked about being with Jesus and walking and doing the things that his progressive illnesses have taken from him. There was no lamenting the fact that he was about to die. His concern was enjoying the time he had left, and food was one of those enjoyments. He talked with nurses and doctors about their beliefs and about being a Christian.
One of his doctors marveled at Tim's positive spirit. When Tim reached the point where caregivers had to feed him, they found him positive and supportive of the help they gave him. As I write this, Tim is back in the group home but still on oxygen, and he still has to be fed. If he passes on from this life, he knows that he has endured the worst of what Satan can do to him, and there is nothing but good things in his future.
The question that every one of us has to answer is whether we are ready to leave this Earth? Are we secure as we see death in our future? We will all survive the pandemic, but not all of us will survive it physically. My aging body will probably die if I get the virus, but my spirit lives on. When I was an atheist, a disease like polio was the ultimate tragedy. That is no longer true. I now know there is something better ahead. If I survive physically, it will be to help others have the security of becoming Christians with the promise of a better future.
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Scripture links/references are from BibleGateway.com. Unhighlighted scriptures can be looked up at their website.