COVID is not King!
By Simon J. Robinson
In more than thirty years of being a Pastor I have never exercised ministry in such a challenging time as the one we are now in. COVID-19 has been able to do something that no political or military power has ever been able to do since the Roman Empire: it has conquered the world. It is able to strike at the old and young, rich and poor, powerful and powerless; even our Prime Minister cannot be protected against it. It has brought a third of the world into lockdown and dominated all of humankind with fear. To me, these events have an apocalyptic feel and some mornings I wake up wondering if I am part of a dystopian movie.
Where is God in all of this and what is he calling his people to do? When the great persecution came to the early church the believers who were scattered ‘preached the Word wherever they went’ (Acts 8:4). And when the Khmer Rouge emptied Phnom Penh and drove thousands of innocent people to their deaths Christians were spreading the good news and leading people to Jesus. COVID-19 has effectively scattered the church but, unlike the early Christians and those Cambodian Christians, we cannot go out and preach the good news wherever we go because we are confined to our homes.
Early on Saturday morning I sat in my lounge, Bible in hand, attempting to get some perspective on what was going on. I had been reading through Luke’s Gospel and my passage for that day was about Jesus’ arrest in chapter 22. When the Religious Leaders turned up with a motley crew of people armed with swords and clubs, as if they were arresting a violent criminal, Jesus asked them why they needed to act this way concluding, ‘This is your hour-when darkness reigns’ (Luke 23:53). We are living in one of the most difficult times I have ever known and there are moments when it seems, to me, that the darkness that has come in the wake of COVID-19 reigns. However, Jesus’ words reminded me that God works out his purposes in such times, through the way of the cross which leads us to the victory of the final resurrection.
I was not given all the answers to my questions but I did have a renewed conviction of the need to cling to the cross and be like Jesus in the suffering that this terrible virus is unleashing on us all (see Phil 3:10).
Later on in Luke 23, when Jesus was challenged by the High Priest as to whether he was the Messiah he said:
“If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God” (Luke 22:67-69).
As I prepared to live another day in lockdown all I could see was darkness, but in the midst of it I found the cross and I continue to cling to it! Jesus embraced his suffering knowing that it would lead to the victory of his resurrection, ascension and return. Suddenly, filled with a new sense of joy, I was able to declare that Jesus – not COVID-19 – is King. He will take his church through these sufferings and ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against us’ (Matt 16:17-19).
Strengthened by this realisation I went into the day determined to find creative ways encourage the people God has entrusted me, to embrace the cross and to live in the sure and certain hope given through Jesus’ resurrection. I am sure that God will carve out a way for us to be his people in ‘diaspora’ and spread the good news (Matt 16:17-19). Already, I see this happening with Christians sharing the gospel by sensitively praying for people when they are distressed, giving ‘a reason for the hope that is within them’ and by doing acts of kindness in Jesus’ name. Traumatic as this season is, I believe that we will look back on it as a time when God deepened our roots and prepared us to go out and reap a great harvest. Jesus is King!