One of my grandnieces from overseas visited us recently. She stepped into home with a dose of dog phobia. We introduced our friendly dog to her. She was a bit unsure at first.
By the end of her visit, she had fallen in love with Polo, our Westie! That’s when I gave her a huge hug. There’s nothing quite like the exhilarating feeling of overcoming fear.
No day passes now without moment by moment updates of the worrying infection rate and rising death toll reminding us acutely that the coronavirus is our latest global health threat.
ARPC, like everyone else, is monitoring the situation carefully. As Christians leaders, we pray to walk the fine line of Godly wisdom between being lovingly alertist vs being unhelpfully alarmist as this life-threatening virus sweeps the world.
How can we overcome this fear gripping the world?
1. Truly saved and offering eternal safety.
Let us not forget our “first order” security and ministry as Christians. We who believe in Jesus as Saviour and Lord should be increasingly secure about our eternal destiny as we face life’s uncertainties.
We should be characterised by contagious faith, not contagion fear.
The people of Wuhan city, Hubei province and China – and all who been sadly infected or are bravely risking life to overcome this everywhere – do not need our prejudice, they deserve our prayers. They don’t need our discrimination, they deserve our compassion.
A truly saved church and authentic followers of Jesus should be God’s vessels offering people in a perishing world unshakeable sanctuary found in Christ alone. Let us repent of being purveyors of fear who pass on rumours or unsubstantiated news.
Let us, rather, listen to the good stuff which is God’s Word and the inspiring testimony of Christians – who over 2000 years – have won the world over by exemplifying Jesus’ selfless love, compassion and courage through some of the worst plagues and pandemics.
My heart is stirred by this gospel irony: the outpouring of testimonies in the lockdown epicentres! There are growing accounts of courageous Chinese Christians loving neighbors at great risk and witnessing for Jesus at even greater cost.
2. Truly saved yet wisely safe on earth.
As it was during SARS in 2003, we will receive an endless stream of advisories from different sectors and churches as the situation unfolds. In all likelihood, things usually get worse before they can get better as the world scrambles to find solutions to contain this coronavirus.
So, in learning from that, we will take our medical and social directives firstly from official Government sources (namely the Ministry of Health & Ministry of Education). That will then be the basis for our own prayerful, Biblical and pastoral decisions on matters relating to our Christian gatherings.
I will be sending out updated ARPC advisories on a “needs basis” – based on official government calibrations – in time for our people’s action for our weekend Services and, if necessary, for our other ministries.
I think we personally have enough wisdom and freedom to decide how to greet and interact with one another – be it in church or otherwise – during this season. We are surely not going to be prescriptive about whether handshakes, holy smiles or Korean drama love heart symbols are the preferred greeting in our church Services. 😇
I hope that helps clarify our pastoral heart and decisions for God’s people in ARPC and beyond. We have gone the extra mile all these years because we have practised temperature checks for our Children’s Church since SARs in 2003.
To put things in perspective, about 400,000 people die from the flu each year. Yet, SARS and now the 2019-nCoV virus, is more frightening because of their higher mortality rate.
In ending, let us humbly beseech God’s mercy and Jesus’ saving Lordship for the people of Wuhan, Hubei, China and the world. And for ourselves to overcome this “groaning” and all dangers by faith in the inseparable love of Jesus enroute to heaven (Romans 8:18-39).
This is yet another poignant reminder of ARPC’s theme for the year and decade: “2020 Vision: Seeing with God’s eyes”. In so doing, may we feel with God’s heart and minister with God’s power for God’s glory. Amen.