Over the last few days, as the coronavirus Covid-19 has continued its relentless advance across the world like some pale horse of the Apocalypse, bringing in its wake pestilence and death, it has felt as if we are falling increasingly under the shadow of fear. With supermarket shelves stripped and warnings against panic buying, and ‘social distancing’ now being recommended, there is a feeling we are fighting a deadly foe we cannot see.
We are unquestionably right to take precautions, both as individuals and as a society. Far too many have died not to take this threat seriously. But when do ‘sensible’ preventative measures spill over into panic?
Since Adam and Eve’s ‘fall’ in Eden, and their expulsion into the hostile environment of a world dominated by chaos and sin, men and women have been subject to fear – fear of pain, of meaninglessness, and of isolation and death. Yet time and again, in the Bible and as He worked for our salvation, God said, ‘Do not be afraid, for I am with you.’ And in time – at the right time – He Himself bridged the gap of existential estrangement by sending into the world His own son, Jesus – who, by His death and resurrection, broke Satan’s hold and restored us to life. Restored us to that relationship with the Father for which we had been created – and liberated us from fear.
It will pass, certainly, this dark shadow of disease – but as we grapple with the stalking horse of fear, there are two questions surely demanding answer. First, has this virus been caused by God because of sin? Second, is it a judgment on humanity? The answer to the first question is, unquestionably, no. God never causes evil. But the second part is more nuanced, because where there is rebellion, God withdraws His protection. It is not fanciful, therefore, to say that this is what we are seeing now, and the remedy – as ever – is repentance.
A little bit of background explanation: Over the last century, buoyed by the easy affluence of civilisation, society has seen a growing drive by the secular lobby to reject God. Humanists have referred to Him contemptuously as ‘a giant fairy in the sky’. They have insisted that we can reframe life as we want, and that we can become whatever we want, even if our desires go against the laws of creation. This in turn has led to a fundamental reframing of our laws, to legitimise what was once regarded as ‘unlawful’. But in the process it has also delimited and restricted the expression of views that don’t conform. Sin is anything that damages our relationship with God, and that stops us from becoming fully what He has created and intends us to be. Such ideas are therefore, at base, sin, because they are founded on rebellion. And sin breeds fear. Fostered, in the present instance, by a media hungry for sensation.
Deliver us from evil: To cut CO2 emissions and help save the planet, I can decide to run my diesel car on liquid sugar – but the plain fact is, it won’t work. Even worse, it will destroy the engine, so that I’m left with no car. So secularists can say whatever they want, but at the end of the day, they can’t change reality. They can encourage lifestyles that spread disease, they can celebrate the mutilation of otherwise healthy bodies, and they can work to undermine the traditional family because of its unacceptably patriarchal, heteronormative and stereotypical values – but they can’t alter the truth. Just as they can’t airbrush God out of existence, because they don’t like what He says!
Fear is the bastard child of chaos – and it is the spread of chaos that we are seeing in society today. Yes, the coronavirus needs proper management and care for those who fall sick, but let us not give way to the terror of night, or the pestilence that stalks in darkness. None of us, perhaps thankfully, knows what the future might hold. But what we can do is trust our Creator and Sovereign Lord, who is well able to keep us from falling.
So let us continue to take all reasonable precaution. But, having done all we can, let us trust. And not give way to fear.
“I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust…”