This COVID-19 season has been intense. Everything is changing, anxieties are raised, people are suffering and death is having an impact on all of us. And significantly, it is not something that we can escape. In close to the last hundred years, there has not been a single thing that has plagued all of society without bias. COVID-19 does not play favourites or politics; it does not care about the first world or the majority world. There is nowhere on the globe that humanity can escape to where COVID-19 is not having an impact. And if it is not the case already, there will soon be no one who has not been negatively impacted by this disease.
But in this bleak reality, we who know the Lord Jesus Christ and the good news that he brings to a world in need of saving, have a real opportunity. We have an opportunity to speak of the hope that we have in the lives of people without hope. We have an opportunity to speak of the security that we have in a world where everything seems out of control and chaotic. We have an opportunity to speak of the assurance that we have – of knowing where we are going even after death – to a world which is terribly afraid of dying. Yes, we need to be sensitive. Yes, we need to be careful to preach what the Bible actually says, and not a false gospel that produces false hope to desperate people. Yes, we need to be savvy as we engage with a world without much Bible literacy. But we have an opportunity.
I say this because the trust that people largely have in their own ability, and the security they have in their health and wealth is slipping between their fingers, like trying to hold tight to fine sand on a beach. The good and right need for human affection and social interaction is being limited day by day. And people are suffering. We as a world are scared. Undoubtedly, social and physical distancing will cause mental health issues to rise, as well as the predicted rise in domestic violence and other crimes.
Because of this, my experience in the last two weeks has shown me that people have been more open to hearing anything that might give them some security. People with time and who are already anxious are willing to softly explore a Jesus who can offer them comfort. And online church has provided a soft, non-intrusive, risk-free way for people to tap into church and hear the good news of comfort. Just the other day, I spoke to a Muslim man who asked me if I thought God was in control of COVID-19. More recently, two people whom I love dearly, and have been praying for constantly, have engaged with Jesus. One reflected on a Bible passage and another started going to an investigating Christianity course. Both did so as a result of a world crumbling around them.
As I have been reading through Mark’s Gospel, it has struck me all the more that this is how we as people have always been. We have always been scared and in need of protection from things that are well beyond our control. Our relatively good lives in the West in recent times might have masked some of our fears and insecurities, but I take it that if Jesus saw us today, he would think what Mark tells us he thought when he interacted with the crowds during his time on earth: “…[He] had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34b).
And of course as we read Mark and ask the question, ‘Who is Jesus?’, we are reminded that Jesus is the Son of God, with the very power of God to forgive sins, heal the sick, calm the storms and raise the dead! COVID-19 is wreaking havoc, but it is no match for the Lord Jesus. And so just as Jesus commanded us, we are to speak the good news and emulate his love to those around us by serving them. We are to call people to repent of their rebellion against God, acknowledge the Lord Jesus as the loving and powerful King, and follow him. And in doing so, we are showing people how to have eternal security.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have a really unique opportunity to show the love of Jesus in our words and actions, and speak true and lasting hope in a world that is desperate. And in telling people of Jesus we do more than give them hope in the face of the threat of COVID-19. We give them hope in the face of certain judgment. So why not give it a try? Don’t just leave the work to your church staff. Pray to the God who gives growth, and strike up a conversation with someone you know. Tell them of the Lord Jesus. Share the story on social media of how you started following Jesus. As for me, I am trying to do short reflections from Mark’s Gospel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF-dicbC_5XUIXYlfsyLWdA.