I am asked again and again, what should Christians do during this coronavirus pandemic? Perhaps the best way to answer that question is the one famously asked by the Rev. Charles Sheldon in his phenomenally best-selling novel In His Steps published in 1896 at the turn of the 20th century. This novel, perhaps the best-selling novel in the English language, produced the hugely influential “What Would Jesus Do?” (W.W.J.D.?) movement, which experienced a powerful revival at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
What would Jesus do? Well, the best starting point is to see what Jesus taught us. He said “love your neighbor as yourself” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and to “ render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” In other words, obey the civil authority. Romans 13 says it is the Christian’s responsibility to obey the civil authority “for conscience sake.”
What would Jesus do? I believe that Jesus would heed the directives of the government and would obey the laws and the directives telling us to limit our exposure to one another in order not to spread this disease and to cause others harm.
What would Jesus do? I believe he would minister to the sick, seeking to provide comfort and assistance to those victimized by the virus. I believe Jesus would seek to assist those who needed special help such as the elderly and the highest risk groups. They might need help buying groceries. They might need help getting to the doctor. If the projections about the percentage of the population that might be infected are remotely accurate, then there will be manifold opportunities to be of assistance to our neighbors and their families, even at risk to ourselves. That is certainly what Jesus would do.
I do not believe as Christians we should have a spirit of fear in regard to the extreme economic and medical dislocation and disruption brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic. We may not know what the immediate future holds, but we know Who holds the future, and we can always trust God’s heart. Panic and pessimism should be alien emotions to believers whose Lord has promised, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” After all, let’s remember that when Simon Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he walked on the water, but when he turned to look at the storm, he began to sink and cried, “Lord, save me!” (Matt. 14:24-32).
As Christians, we need to pray for each other as Jesus fervently prayed for us in John 17. We especially need to lift up our Christian leaders, praying that God will give them a special “holy boldness” to manifest the love of Christ to an anxious nation that has been shaken out of its complacency and is looking for assurance, meaning, and purpose with a new sense of attention and urgency.
In the past few days, I believe all of us have sensed that something important has changed in American society. For tens of millions of Americans the terms Republican, Democrat, and Independent have receded into the background, and we are sensing a nonpartisan coming together in the midst of crisis in the way my parents told me we came together as one people in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor.
I am imploring God that He will give us the spiritual wisdom to be “redeeming the time” (Eph. 5:16) and to use us in this extraordinary and propitious moment to win eternal victories in the lives and eternal destinies of our fellow citizens.
Christians should pray that when we look back on this crisis, our fellow Americans will see this chapter in our national history as one that reflects great credit on the Lord we serve. I cannot help but think about how differently the culture and the history of the last four decades might have been if Christians had done “what Jesus would do” and we had volunteered at AIDS hospices to help treat and comfort the tragic victims of that epidemic, modeling the transformative love of Jesus before the world and to these victims.
Let’s not fail our duty this time. Let’s be ambassadors of Christ.