How Should Christians Respond to the Coronavirus?
Southern Evangelical Seminary President Dr. Richard Land Asks: What Would Jesus Do? Panic and Pessimism Should Be Alien Emotions to Believers
March 23, 2020
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Christians and Americans are facing a crisis none are old enough to have experienced previously. Asks Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES, www.ses.edu) President and Evangelical leader Dr. Richard Land, “What are our obligations and responsibilities as disciples of Jesus? How should Christians respond to the coronavirus pandemic?”
“I do not believe I have been asked any question more frequently in the past fortnight than this one,” said Land, who has written and spoken about this important topic. “First, as Christ-followers, we need to remember that our Heavenly Father is ‘a refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble’ (Psalm 46:1). Our Heavenly Father is still the all-knowing, ever-present, omnipotent God.
“Panic and pessimism should be alien emotions to believers whose Lord has promised, ‘I will never thee, nor forsake thee’ (Hebrews 13:5),” Land added. “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!’ (Matthew 14:24-32)” We may not know what the immediate future holds, but we know who holds the future, and we know who holds our hand. He is the God of miracles.”
Perhaps the best question to ask, Land said, is the one famously asked by the Rev. Charles Sheldon in his best-selling novel “In His Steps” (1896) at the turn of the 20th century. “In His Steps” became one of the best-selling novels ever written in the English language, with over 50 million copies sold, and generated the enormously influential “What Would Jesus Do?” (W.W.J.D.?) movement, which experienced a powerful revival at the beginning of the present century.
“The best starting point in how we move forward is to always remember and have in our consciousness that we are disciples of our Lord Jesus, who commanded us ‘to love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mark 12:31) and ‘to do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ (Luke 6:31),” Land said. “He also said that we should render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s (Mark 12:17). Romans 13:5 reinforces this fact that Christians are to obey the government’s law ‘for conscience sake’ unless in conscience they cannot.”
Land asked: What would Jesus do?
“I believe He would minister to the sick, seeking to provide comfort and assistance to those coping with physical, emotional and economic aftermath of having the virus or having lost a loved one to it,” Land said. “If the projections about the percentage of the population which may become infected are even 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.
“Also, I don’t believe Jesus would put anyone else at needless risk,” Land continued. “I believe Jesus would recommend that His disciples heed the government directives concerning the best medical practices to prevent the spread of this virus. In fact, if we as Christians assume that as believers we can disregard sound medical advice and engage in inherently risky behavior, presuming that God will still protect us, we are committing the sin of presumption.”
Jesus Himself warned against this particular sin, Land said. When confronted by the Devil with this sin in the wilderness, Jesus replied, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:7).
“If the health authorities recommend no meeting of more than 50 people, is it presumption for churches to disregard these directives and assemble in person rather than through streaming online?” Land asked. “I fear that it indeed would be. As Christ’s disciples, we need to follow His command to pray for all of those who are in authority, that God will give them wisdom, guidance and protection as they seek to fulfill their divinely ordained assignment to protect the citizenry (Romans 13:1-7).
“And, as Christians, we need to pray for each other as Jesus fervently prayed for us (John 17),” Land continued. “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.”
Land said he believes that in the past few days, all have sensed that something important has changed in American society. For tens of millions, the terms Republican, Democrat and Independent have receded into the background, and Americans are sensing a nonpartisan coming together in the midst of crisis.
“I am imploring God that He will give us the spiritual wisdom to be ‘redeeming the time’ (Ephesians 5:16) and use us in this extraordinary and propitious moment to win eternal victories in the lives and eternal destinies of our fellow citizens,” Land concluded. “Jesus called us to be His ambassadors of reconciliation in word and in deed (2 Corinthians 5:19-20). Christians should pray that when the country looks back on this crisis, our fellow Americans will see this chapter in our history as one that reflects great credit on the Lord we serve.”
SES has announced its 2020 National Conference on Christian Apologetics (NCCA), set for Oct. 16-17 in Charlotte. The seminary will focus on the theme of “Hold Fast” for the 27th annual conference by welcoming some of the nation’s top apologetics speakers. The early bird deadline for tickets is Aug. 1, and SES is offering a free apologetics Bible to early ticketholders.
To interview Dr. Richard Land of Southern Evangelical Seminary, contact Hamilton Strategies, Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Jeff Tolson, 610.584.1096, ext. 108, or ext. 102.