In 1990, a church youth leader began a grassroots movement to help her teenage group remember the phrase, “What Would Jesus Do?” Soon, “WWJD” was found on items ranging from bracelets to lunch boxes. Like most fads, it eventually died out. But the question posed will never die out because it is central to any committed Christian’s daily walk.
So, when the coronavirus began to dominate the headlines, and I was considering how I should respond, God brought this question to mind. What would Jesus do in the time of the coronavirus? Moreover, how would his response—and therefore, my response – differ from that of the broader culture? In short, as a Christian, what was I called to do? Below are three things that God impressed upon me.
Exchange Fear for Faith
You don’t have to spend much time watching news reports to know that these are indeed scary times. Daily we hear reports of death as a result of the virus. In some cases, these deaths may be of a loved one, co-worker, or friend. Moreover, unfortunately, our news media has a vested interest to highlight more bad news than good under the guise of keeping us informed. As they say, “if it bleeds, it leads” and there is “blood” aplenty these days.
But, as Christians, we are not called to a life of fear—pandemic or not—but rather to a life of faith in the one who reminds us frequently to “fear not.” You see, fear is paralyzing and debilitating. When we are fearful, we lose the ability to respond in love to those in need around us. It’s not surprising that those gripped by fear, while fleeing a burning building will trample others, even those they care about, to get out.
But Christ calls us to exchange our fear, no matter the circumstances, for an abiding faith in him. In fact, 1 Peter 5:7-10 is a great reminder during these times:
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of a sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
You see, Christ went to the cross — to which the coronavirus looks like a hangnail — not in fear, but rather in faith in the Father who sent him. So too must we maintain our faith as we walk through the “valley of death” during this pandemic.
Exchange Isolation for Engagement
When we are fearful of the coronavirus, it is natural for us to respond by isolating ourselves from others, physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. After all, the coronavirus is an unseen killer that moves effortlessly and quietly among us. So, anyone could be a carrier; therefore, everyone is dangerous and everyone is a threat. No one can be trusted.
Moreover, as you know, there has been a national and statewide mandate for us to practice “social distancing.” However, it’s unfortunate that this term has been promoted during this pandemic. The word “social” comes from the Latin socius meaning “friend.” When you’re being social, you are being friendly to others. Indeed, in the midst of this pandemic, doesn’t everyone need a friend?
A better term to be used would have been “physical distancing,” because that is essentially what we are tasked to do to stop the spread of the virus. You see, Jesus never practiced social distancing; he promised, though absent physically, that he would never leave us or forsake us. In fact, in Romans 8:38-39 the Apostle Paul reminds us:
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So, with this blessed assurance, as Christians, we must proactively use whatever safe means possible to engage with others, while keeping ourselves and others protected from the virus. In fact, God impressed on me to make a list of those who I would contact each day to engage in conversations so that I could pray for and encourage them. As in the case of the “Woman at the Well,” Jesus was always intentional to engage others, especially those in need.
Exchange Hoarding for Sharing
No doubt, you have read the countless news reports of hoarding of various items. The strangest example, in my view, was the run on toilet paper at many stores nationwide. It got so bad that stores had to establish limits. Indeed, we may be facing the “Zombie Apocalypse” of a virus, but at least our bottoms will be clean! Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that it is unwise to prudently gather resources for emergencies. After all, the book of Genesis tells the story of Joseph, the wisest of leaders, orchestrating a significant buildup of storehouses for the coming 7 years of famine in Egypt.
But, the Bible also tells the story in Luke 12:19-23 of the foolish Rich Man who comforted himself with the words, “And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!” Yet, that very night, this man was destined to die.
The issue then is one of intention. As Christians, we are blessed to be “storehouses,” so that we can be a blessing to others in need. And, please note, by storehouses, I mean that we have time, talent and treasure that God gives freely to us so that we can give freely to others, especially in times of need. You see, ultimately, God wants us to be instruments to facilitate his abundance.
Consider the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 people in John 6:1-15. Jesus noticed that a huge crowd was gathering around him and then turned to Phillip and said, “Where can we buy bread for all of these people?” Phillip had no idea what to do and just responded that it would take months of wages to meet this need.
But then something amazing happens. A young boy with the question, “What Would Jesus Do? came forward. He offers his 5 loaves and 2 fish to Jesus, even though this was all he had and he didn’t know what Jesus would do with it or how his own needs would be met. He just knew that whatever Jesus would do with his resources was better than what he could do on his own. In other words, this young boy exchanged his fear for faith, his isolation for engagement, and his hoarding for sharing.
And, Jesus did the rest. Why? Because that is what Jesus does. Amen.