2. Theological Response to COVID-19
This time in the life of Christians has invited the question “where is God in the whole picture?” The covid-19 pandemic has engulfed the world like a dark cloud. It is in this period of misinformation, confusion and anxiety that a sound theological response is critical. The following aspects of a reasonable theological reflection may give guidance and assurance in our context.
2.1. The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness. The world and those who dwell therein (Psalm 24:1). God is the creator of everything in existence. God loves all that He has created, including human beings. Jesus, God incarnate, came to the world to
dwell among us, to share in our human experiences of pain, humiliation and even death.
2.2. God is at work in the world, seeking healing and wholeness. Christ came to the world so that through him we may have life and life in abundance. In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17: 28). We need to discern where God is moving in our lives and in the current pandemic to bring healing to the vulnerable, prevent future illness, and join God’s arc of morality, spirituality, and healing. Jesus travelled through towns and villages, curing every disease and illness. He appointed his disciples to this ministry of preaching and healing after him and we are called to join in this ministry as his disciples.
2.3. The church is a people, not the building. Most of the church activities have been cancelled, including the Easter services. For a Christian to wake up on Sunday morning and not be in the fellowship of God’s people has been difficult to accept. But, from a theological perspective, it is impossible to “cancel church.” We are the church whether we are dispersed in the world, inside our homes, or watching our services via live stream. The church cannot be “closed,” only buildings can be closed. We are still the living embodiment of the gospel wherever we are or wherever we go!
2.4. It is important for Christians to remember that this coronavirus spread has been taking place during the season of Lent. Lent has always been designated as a time for deeper reflection. However, in the busyness of the season and the planning of services, we may not have taken time to stop for times of extended prayer. The growing number of postponed meetings, cancelled flights, and cancelled gatherings, may actually provide more time to “keep Lent” well. Calendars, which once were filled with meetings and appointments, have suddenly cleared, freeing up time. Many meetings are happening through teleconferences, skype or zoom; but the point is, there has been whitespace created in most of our calendars. This is a means of grace. It’s time to pray. To seek God’s face. To listen to the voice of the Lord. To keep Lent well.
One of the central symbols of Lent is the thorny crown. It reminds us of sacrifice and self-denial. It is a symbol of the price Jesus paid. The term “corona” in “coronavirus” is a word which in anatomy bears the meaning “crown.” It is because the virus, under extreme magnification, actually looks like a thorny crown; therefore, it is—quite literally—the thorny crown virus. The coronavirus reminds us that as Christians we always—even when there is no virus in our midst—embody the sufferings of the world. Lent is the time when we are particularly reminded of that great truth. We are a people of faith, not fear. The gospel is, among other things, the triumph over fear. The apostle Paul admonishes us in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control” (ESV). This means that even if we have cancelled our gatherings and events, it is not done out of fear, but out of love. It is because we have compassion and love for those who are most vulnerable among us. This means that social distancing, self-isolation and lockdown, is not out of self-interest, but out of compassion and love for others.