The news about the coronavirus is everywhere and inescapable. Of course, that’s the worry, that this new virus for which there currently is no cure is inescapable. It’s not actually as widespread or as deadly as the flu but the fear is there. Any new virus is a drug for the media because it plays on our fear that one day a new plague, a new deadlier and more viral disease will strike. We fear what we cannot control. Always have, always will.
Given the number of cases (43,000+) it should be relatively easy to dismiss this as no threat or concern. If you live in Europe it should feel so far away that it would be hard to relate to what is happening but we live in a globalised world, everything is now closer than we think even when it is farther away than we realise.
Then a friend sent me a video from a Pastor in Wuhan and I realised I’d met him. I’ve been asked not to share the video on social media, so you’ll have to take my word for it but it put a recognisable face to the crisis and that made it much more real for me. His church’s determination to care for each other even at the risk of getting infected was truly admirable and reminded me of the early church stories of how Christians cared for the sick. It made praying easier but it also made me wonder, how we would cope if the tables were turned?
I’m not sure Western Christianity would hold up all that well under the strain if it was us and not them. We’re not well prepared for life to be hard. We’re not ready for suffering and trial. I say that because I’m reasonably convinced that two guiding principles for most of us are convenience and comfort. We set up our daily lives to be as comfortable as possible and we work things to our schedule to suit our convenience. We are mini-monarchs the lot of us. I bet it doesn’t feel like that to you, you don’t feel like people are there to do your bidding but your life is probably more like that than you realise.
You want shops and restaurants to be open when it suits you and not when it suits them. You want your entertainment on demand, ready at the click of the button. You’ll probably somewhat resent unscheduled interruptions to your schedule and would prefer to get people to come and see you when you think you have time. None of that will seem unreasonable but it’s precisely what a rich ruler does.
Even when we do things that have the appearance of discomfort – some extreme sport or physical challenge it is often precisely because the rest of our lives are so supremely comfortable that we feel if we succumb to that fully we would somehow fail at life. We’re no longer called to war so an ultra-marathon becomes our battleground, the place where we prove ourselves worthy.
Who knows, maybe we would do OK but lives governed by convenience and comfort, have rarely proved adequate in times of crisis. That crisis doesn’t have to be a national health crisis or a global pandemic, it could just be a crisis in our lives.
Of course it’s hard to do otherwise, the idea of setting our lives up to be uncomfortable or inconvenient sounds ridiculous but it also sounds somehow off when applies to following Christ. His call was not to a life of comfort but a life that was shaped by a cross and there are few things in existence more inconvenient than one of those. To follow Christ isn’t that I seek out comfort but that I seek out Christ and pursue the values and principles of his kingdom. Let me give you one example, which I’ve written about before here, generosity. If comfort and convenience guides our decisions then there will be a definite limit on your giving and that will likely at some point stop you from being generous. The opportunities for generosity are rarely timed for your convenience or comfort because they based on someone else’s need. Someone else’s discomfort and inconvenient circumstances are the testing ground for you – helping may hurt. Not them, you.
Same goes for kindness, goodness, patience and pretty much all the virtues. Yet we will resist each of those when our comfort and convenience are our gods.
- COVID-19 Global Cases – real-time data from John Hopkins University.
- 5 Prayer Requests from Behind the Coronavirus Curtain
- Wuhan Pastor: Pray with Us
- An Expat in China’s Response to the Coronavirus
- King Jehoshaphat and the Coronavirus
- Might the coronavirus bring freer speech to China?
- In China, censorship and lies have fuelled coronavirus fear