In the 4th of a series on Covid-19, NALINI PATHER focuses on Jesus, who gives us comfort and courage
In our previous blog we highlighted that God is sovereign in all, and over all. The Gospel literally means ‘good news’ from the sovereign God. This good news is about Jesus – he is the Son of God, he died and was resurrected. Notice then, the gospel is about hope in Lord Jesus Christ, not in ourselves because we are sinful and subject to death. He is in control. We are not in control – and have never been in control. This gives us comfort in uncertainty and the courage to be both heavenly-focused and other-centered, amid an exhausting, seemingly ‘never-ending’ pandemic. Jesus is our hope and joy even in the face of our certain death.
Paul in Colossians 3:1-4 encourages us to keep our eyes fixed on the goal:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
This passage reminds us that the gospel saves from sin and separation from God, and we are now reconciled with God in the resurrected, ascended Christ (Col. 3.1). Paul tells us that a heavenly mindset comes from the knowledge that if we are in Christ, we died with him, and when he was resurrected and ascended, so did we. We cannot earn this salvation because by nature we reject God. Salvation is all of God – But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Roman 5:8). Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates God’s almighty, life-giving, sin-breaking, death-defeating power, in historical, time and space reality. In him, we have the promise of eternal life. He is our joy.
We can trust Jesus to give us, not merely a good life now – as C. S. Lewis said, “a bottle of port would do that [make me happy]” – but to give us eternal life with God in a glorious new creation. We can trust Jesus to give us that eternal life because he possesses it now. We know he possesses it because he rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of his Father (Col.3.1). This heavenly mindset gives us joy in our suffering and power to advance his kingdom here today as others have done through the ages, through sickness, strife, disasters and pandemics. As Paul says,
‘In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace’ (Col.1.6)
Jesus’ resurrection gives Christians confident hope that is the opposite to the despair and helplessness of contemporary secularity. If there is no “God”, the ways this virus evolves to find gaps in our defenses, can make us afraid and despondent. But we who believe, know Christ is risen. He is “the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev. 22:13). He “hold[s] the keys of death and hell” (Rev 1:18). One day, we who trust in him will also share his indestructible, ever-living, glorified human nature.
This really gives us the courage to live a life of hope and to be other-centered – serving others, in the midst of a pandemic. This life is good, but not the ultimate goal. We don’t need to be seeking joy and satisfaction in this world, or to be desperately protecting ourselves from every risk of death. We certainly don’t seek death; as we said before, as God’s image-bearers, we have the knowledge and ability to protect ourselves and others, and combat this virus with medicine (see the second blog in this series). The truth however remains, as the great philosopher Lieutenant Alex Hopper in the 2012 movie, Battleship, said “We are going to die. You’re going to die, I’m going to die, we’re all going to die – just not today”. Death is certain (unless Jesus returns first). We live this life, not fundamentally to protect ourselves, but to honour God, and serve others in God’s name.
Confidence in Christ’s resurrection – and through him, ours – gives us the courage and the love to be other-centred, to care for others more than ourselves. We can minister, through the long road ahead, to those who are hurting whether it be directly from the virus or from its consequences. Paul says in Galatians 6.10: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
The first blog in this series on ‘COVID Twists and Turns: preparing for a long journey’ explained that this pandemic is going to drag on for a long while. The almighty power of the risen, ever-living Jesus is needed now, not just to cope with the pandemic ourselves, but to help others cope with it. And better still, to help everyone find life beyond the pandemic in Jesus, our heavenly physician.
‘No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8.37-39)
The poem below, The Thorn, was written by Martha Snell Nicholson (1898-1953) and is a reminder that there is joy in suffering, which produces hope in Christ. Martha suffered chronic debilitating pain for over 35 years during which time she was mostly bedridden or in a wheelchair, requiring assistance for her most basic needs. Through this, her faith in God was firm, and she penned many poems about her faith, her joy in suffering and her God.
I stood a mendicant [beggar] of God
before his royal throne
And begged Him for a priceless gift,
which I could call my own.
I took the gift from out His hand,
but as I would depart,
I cried, “But Lord, this is a thorn
and it has pierced my heart.
“This is a strange, hurtful gift
that thou hast given me.”
He said, “My child, I give good gifts
and gave my best to thee.”
I took it home and though at first,
the cruel thorn hurt sore;
As long years passed I learned at last
to love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn
without this added grace…
He takes the thorn to pin aside…
the veil which hides His face.
~ Martha Snell Nicholson
Here are the links to other blogs in the series
Part 1 Twists, turns and a long road to Covid recovery – new G,S&C series
Part 2 The image of God and caring for others
Part 3 God frames our response to the pandemic
OTHER GS&C RESOURCES
SHORT PAPERS: Understanding the Context
Understanding the virus and vaccines
- Herd Immunity and The Common Good
- Innate Mechanism of Immunity, History of Vaccines and Common Grace
- Vaccines: Is There A Problem?
- Health Disparity and Social Justice
- Vaccinations: Health Disparity and Social Justice
- Vaccines: Informed Consent, Mandates and Exploitation
- Should We Object to and Boycott Vaccines Created Using Tissue from Aborted Fetuses?