By Rev. Dr. Mark Wood
There’s really nothing new about the new coronavirus (also called COVID-19).
Human history is filled with instances of epidemics, plagues, and pandemics.
The Bible speaks about plagues and widespread diseases in accounts of the past and in accounts of our future.
Deadly disease is nothing new. Neither is the greater threat to mankind.
In Revelation 9, we read about the horrible destruction that will one day ravage the earth.
The figurative language of this chapter has caused many people to speculate about the exact nature of the three plagues discussed here.
Whatever they may be (and it’s very unlikely that they are coronaviruses), verses 20 and 21 make it clear that mankind faces a far greater problem than these plagues.
“The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.” (Rev. 9:20–21)
While the world around us is fixated on COVID-19, how to respond to it, and the fears of contracting it, there is something that is a far greater threat to them than they realize.
Many people in our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and even our families are more concerned about a disease with a 1-2% mortality rate than a condition with a 100% mortality rate — a condition that every one of them has already contracted.
We know that this greater problem is sin. We also know that handwashing, antiseptic wipes, microbe-trapping face masks, and isolation cannot spare any of us from the deadly consequences of sin.
Only the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ can save us.
People’s concern over COVID-19 is an opportunity for us to engage them in conversations about our mortality and the certainty of death.
It is an opening for us to speak God’s Word into a situation that can only be answered by God’s Word.
In the face of the COVID-19 threat, with all its fears and uncertainties, we can shine as people who have certain hope and faith.
Our response to COVID-19 should show the people around us that we live in faith, not fear, and that we are filled with hope.
Our hope is not in science, technology, or medicine. Our hope is in the One who has given us these good gifts and the greater gifts of life and salvation through the forgiveness of our sins.
Your response to the COVID-19 threat should include making good use of the “reason and senses” and all that God has given us “for this body and life” (Luther’s Small Catechism).
By all means, follow the sound advice of medical professionals and public health officials to protect yourself and your loved ones from this virus.
But do not fear. You are God’s own child washed in the waters of Holy Baptism, cleansed by the blood of Jesus, and filled with hope.
As you prepare to deal with the challenges of a widespread disease, remember to also prepare to share Good News with “anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
Through your faithful witness during a public health crisis, it is possible that people in your life will repent and receive the healing that only Jesus can provide.
It’s true: There’s nothing new about the new coronavirus. But, in COVID-19, there is a new opportunity for us to bring Good News to our dying world.