Up until two weeks ago, our country watched the television as the COVID-19 pandemic spread from China to South Korea, Italy, and Spain. While that was happening, nobody here was too worried because everything was happening on the other side of the world. However, when the president announced the first two cases in our country, fear grabbed hold of everyone.
I would like to share a practical and theological reflection about what has happened in our country and in the world.
1. The Fear of Death
When the first cases of the virus were imported from other countries, the great majority of people entered into collective hysteria. Peruvians saw the threat of death coming closer. However, I should clarify that the fear among people in my country is not so much the virus, as it is death itself. Nobody wants to die; everyone wants to live a long life—a long live without God.
In the face of this hysteria, the supermarkets quickly ran out of supplies in record time. The health authorities tried to calm everyone down by stating that the fatality rate was very low, but despite their efforts, people manifested again and again what is in the heart of all people: the fear of death and the selfish pursuit of self-preservation. (“Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life.’” – Job 2:4)
Not only has man demonstrated repeatedly a fear of death, but also together with it, the ignorance of what eternal life really is. People long for life and eternity, but they want it without God. They don’t understand that death in this life is the result of their spiritual death, owed to the fact that humanity rejected God in sin. (“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23)
On the other hand, I can see the great lengths people are going to in order to prepare themselves materially for the onset of the virus, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, this is a very partial preparation. What good will it do anyone to buy all the cleaning alcohol, all the disinfectants, and all the masks, if their soul is not prepared to meet the Lord?
As I meditate on this and look toward the day of judgment that awaits us all, I suspect that many who are making such preparations materially are also assuming that they will take with them their own works before God at judgment as their justification before Him. But just like material preparation is of no value apart from spiritual preparation, so also our own supposed good works are of no value before the righteous God. The work we all need is the only work that is righteous and approved by God, and that is the work of His Son Jesus Christ.
I repeat that I think material preparations are good and necessary, but they are only partial. They will last only for a short time, and have no value in eternity.
2. The Ministry of the Church
Thinking about what I have just written, I ask myself, “How will men and women find out about these truths if there is no one to tell them?” (“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” – Romans 10:14)
The work of the State is to guarantee the health of Peruvians in this generation; the work of the church is the guarantee through the Scriptures the salvation of men and women for this life and the one to come. The christian, just like the unbeliever, must take measures to ensure safety. The difference between the two is found in the fact that as the Christian prepares in this life, he is also prepared for the day when he meets God.
I believe this crisis is the megaphone God is using to make people listen to the Good News of salvation. Christians should be saying, “Here am I!” In the midst of all that is happening, it’s necessary that we exercise wisdom, especially if we are living with people who are vulnerable to the virus. But I also want to make clear that we are to take advantage of every opportunity (without putting the health of others at risk) to announce the gospel of the grace of God.
Beloved brothers and sisters, may we always be ready to proclaim the gospel. The greatest problem of man is not the coronavirus, it is his need for reconciliation with God, and the only remedy is the passionate preaching of the gospel.
This week I will be preaching in an empty auditorium in the church. None of the church members will be there, but I will record the message and share it with them. We must always look for ways to continue pastoring the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. The church will always prevail. I love the Church of Christ and I have always believed that the ministry of the church is the hope for the world.
3. An Opportunity to Meditate as a Family
On a personal level, I have gotten a lot of questions from my two older children on this topic. They feel a sense of uncertainty about it all. As a father, this has been a new opportunity to speak to them about Christ and His work. I am confident that this is the only message that can give rest to every person.
The Peruvian government announced that starting at midnight last Sunday, everyone must remain in their houses. Nobody can leave except to buy food or receive medical attention. The army is in the streets to guarantee order and adherence. There is a lot of speculation about the rising store prices, the scarcity of food, and the number of people that will get sick without the necessary medical attention.
Nonetheless, I can trust in the Lord that He will not fail me. My eyes are not fixed on the government or the doctors, but on the Lord who made the heavens and the earth. (“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121:1-2)
4. The Sovereignty of God
The good news is that God is on His throne. He reigns and He has His purposes that have been decreed from before the foundation of the world. No virus, bacteria, or atom is out of His control. He is using this pandemic and He confounds the wisdom of men.
He exposes the false apostles of our day and their false prosperity gospel. One thing that made me laugh recently was reading that the false apostle Guillermo Maldonado had to postpone his healing and miracles tour in Honduras because of the coronavirus. Certainly, something is wrong there! These false messengers are no competition for the sovereignty of God. They cannot command Him, they cannot decree against Him, they cannot “activate” faith, they cannot heal. They are clouds without water! No man can demand anything from the holy and sovereign God.
He humbles those who have put their hope in science. He teaches those who hope in their riches that their money is a god without power. He forces atheists that shake their fist at heaven to believe in something greater. He shatters the pride of the nations.
“All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” – Daniel 4:35
Beloved brothers and sisters, let’s trust in this God and in all that He does!