The coronavirus has given us a very grim reflection of humanity’s worst traits. It’s shown us how quickly we are led to believe anything and everything. It’s shown how easily our leaders fall for the allure of power. It’s shown how flippantly we dismiss our neighbors as dumb or dangerous. Most importantly, from my diagnosis, it’s shown how fervently we succumb to fear. Far from keeping distance, far from avoiding cities and crowded spaces, we are afraid to leave the confines of our houses for brief weekly neighborhood walks. The hopeful, ill-intentioned or not, have been demonized more than terrorists. This is biblically disconcerting, and I want to provide a few lessons on how fear is a more dangerous enemy than the coronavirus itself.
When Israel was under Canaanite occupation, God chose a man named Barak to liberate his people. Canaan outclassed Israel in combat, fielding a fleet of iron chariots when the tribesmen of Israel could barely fashion bronze. The only advantage the Israelites had was the home advantage and their God. Knowing this, Barak reasonably feared for his life and those of his comrades. He refused to go, believing that it would be certain death, unless the current residing prophet would go with him. Deborah, said prophet, agreed to go with him but promised that the glory of battle would be stripped from him. God would hand the victory to someone else. You will be left behind if you are too afraid to venture forth; God can just as easily find someone else for His plan.
When Israel was besieged by the Philistines, they sent out their champion to settle the war in one fell swoop. The loser’s nation would be the victor nation’s slaves. The champion, nearly ten feet tall, was bedecked in the finest armor that era could provide, far more than the tatters Israelites could boast, rivalling only the king’s armor. Israel had no champion, save their God, who could match the might of Goliath. Knowing this, the army of Israel reasonably feared for their lives and those of their families. Nothing, not even Saul’s offer of a place in the royal family, could convince them to fight that giant. The punishment for their cowardice would have been servitude, for themselves, their friends, and their families.
Think of the coronavirus. How many of us feel that certain death awaits us outside? Of all confirmed cases, 7% have died (Worldometers). However, we can expect unconfirmed cases to eclipse confirmed cases, possibly by an order of magnitude or two. That’s a 0.7% chance of death, and still lower for the healthy and the young. Are those the odds of fighting in battle with disadvantage? Is certain death, as God’s chosen have faced throughout the millennia, even comparable? Jesus overcame the very clutches of death; there is nothing from which He cannot deliver you. But by cowering in fear, thirty million are unemployed in the United States alone. The fear of what may come must not drown out the certain, recordable damage and lives lost.
Should we abandon traditional medicine, then, for our tamer diseases? No, that is a gift that God has given us. We must use it. Should we take up a hobby in eating fire? No, that would be daring God to save or kill us. Infatuation with risk is just as bad as aversion to risk. What about our friends? God saved Lot. He saved Noah’s family. He saves individuals, families, and nations. Your friends are in God’s hands.
Three Hebrews in Babylon once refused to worship the crafted idol of the Babylonian king. They knew better; Israel had run into too many problems with false gods before. For their insolence, they were cast into a mighty furnace. Before they were thrown in, they gave the king their word that, whether or not the Lord would save them from the pit, they would never stoop to his level. God delivered them, just as he delivered Barak, just as he delivered the sons of Israel those countless times.
There are going to be many sorry circumstances which we have to face that are outside our control and remedy. Some have a risk of death. But you have a family to protect and feed. You have a community to help and serve. God bless you and be with you all.