Quarantine: Nothing New Under the Sun

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Dickens’ timeless statement aptly describes my feelings about the response of Christians to the COVID-19 crisis. 

I’ve been encouraged to see churches adapt so quickly to these challenging times. “Zoom” was unknown to most pastors just a month ago, but they’ve learned how to minister to their people remotely, and they’ve shown creativity in proclaiming the gospel online. I think the quarantine has actually extended our evangelistic reach, not shortened it. Furthermore, my expectation is that Christians will value corporate life more than ever as a result of the quarantine. I don’t think most will become enamored with online services and stay home when the quarantine is lifted. I expect most to be more hungry than ever to be with their church families. That’s a great thing.

The response of Christians to the COVID-19 crisis has been both encouraging and lamentable

On the other hand, I’ve been saddened to see Christians (including prominent leaders) promoting conspiracy theories, pointing fingers at leaders, pontificating as if they have simple answers to complex problems, and mocking the quarantine. I get that it’s frustrating to have businesses shut down, especially for those whose income is affected. I’m praying for a quick recovery, and I’m praying for those who have lost jobs to experience God’s provision and peace. But I think it’s irresponsible to make public statements that the quarantine is either (a) a power grab by the government to step on the Constitution and take away our freedoms or (b) a form of persecution against the church, as though Christians were being singled out. I don’t think either is true.

I fear that Christians have a hair trigger on issues like this. It undermines our credibility and diminishes our gospel witness. I don’t see the current crisis as an indication that we’re in the last days. If we’re quick to say so, I think it demonstrates that we’re poor students of history. Yes, this is awful. But so were the countless droughts, famines, and plagues that threatened lives throughout history. Our current situation probably doesn’t even make history’s top 20 plagues. Articles like this might be helpful to gain some perspective. Or even memes like this, on a lighter note.

Illnesses aren’t new. Quarantines aren’t new. In fact, they’re biblical. Read Leviticus 13, which prescribes how infectious diseases should be handled by civil leaders. (The priests here, in Israel’s theocracy, served the role of the health department, not merely spiritual leaders.) You have tests and short-term quarantines (vv. 1-8), and you have long-term quarantines (vv. 45-46). That was almost 3,500 years ago.

More recently, we have these timely thoughts from Martin Luther, 500 years ago, as he hunkered down during the Black Plague of 1527:

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me, and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.” 

That sounds like it could have been posted on a blog a couple days ago. The point is, while this is uncomfortable, it’s not unprecedented, and it’s not the end of the world. While it’s easy to second guess our national and state leaders, I truly appreciate what they’re doing. I can’t imagine the responsibility they’re bearing, but Scripture tells us that they have been ordained by God to protect us and that they deserve our appreciation, submission, and prayers (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-15; 1 Timothy 2:1-2). Breathe, friends. Pray. Take a sabbatical from news channels if they’re contributing to your frustrations. Let’s seek to be a blessing, whether in our homes or online. Let’s be known for our reasonableness, not our agitation (Philippians 4:5). 

Let’s be known for our reasonableness, not our agitation

“Lord, bless those who are leading us with unusual wisdom. Protect those who are serving us on the front lines, especially the medical professionals who are risking their lives to serve others. Provide for those facing serious financial challenges. Draw lost ones to Christ, especially as the busyness which they use to tune out Your still, small voice is removed for a time. Mature Your church, and strengthen our faith. Encourage those who are cast down and hopeless. Help Your church to be a positive, peace-making influence during these troubled times. Have mercy on us, we pray through Jesus, Your Son and our Savior. Amen.”