I’ve noticed in the news lately that some Christians are misunderstanding the hope of the gospel. They assume that God is always going to protect them from harm, specifically COVID-19. But are Christians protected from COVID-19?
Misapplying God’s Word
I appreciate the intention of believers who want to claim all the promises of God. They want to believe what the Bible has to say about God’s protection and healing. So do I! But sometimes you can misunderstand God’s word and misapply it, like a church in Australia did. They put out this notice:
Health and Safety Notice Regarding Coronavirus Covid-19
Your health is a top priority for us and we have taken a proactive approach to keep our church family healthy and safe.
We are in agreement that this COVID-19 will not come near our dwelling or our church family. We are praying daily for you, knowing that we are all protected by the Blood of Jesus.
For your convenience, hand sanitizer is readily available at all our sites.
Our desire is for you to be informed and know that our heart is to protect and ensure the safety of all so we can continue to worship together, all our services will operate as per normal.
For those of you that don’t understand the reference to “the blood of Jesus”, they are saying that when Jesus died, his death not only paid for our sins but it also protects us from any bad thing happening.
I know they mean well. They want to be faithful to God. Every Christian struggles knowing when to apply Bible verses. But this church is operating on faulty logic.
If this church thinks that Jesus’ death saves them from COVID-19, then it should also save them from cancer, heart disease, diabetes, car accidents, the common cold, and anything that might harm them. My guess is that’s not true. If it is, I want to move to Australia and go to that church!
I can’t believe that everyone in that church dies in their sleep from old age. And if I’m right that means they are just as susceptible COVID-19 as anyone on the planet.
Maybe deep down they know that. That’s why they mentioned that hand sanitizer is available. I guess the blood of Jesus AND hand sanitizer will keep them safe!
Now, might God heal someone or prevent them from getting the coronavirus in the first place? Absolutely. But that’s up to God to decide who, when, and where. We can’t presume upon God.
There is Superstition… and Denial
During a crisis like we are experiencing, we have to be careful about how we talk about God and the Bible. People can get superstitious with their faith. But we don’t want to use the “blood of Jesus,” or a Bible verse, like some kind of rabbit’s foot or good-luck charm that magically keeps us from harm.
People often use religion as a form of denial so they don’t have to deal with the reality of a crisis. When you feel like you’ve lost control, sometimes it’s easier to cling to simplistic answers and hope your problems disappear.
Let’s not talk like that. It cheapens what Jesus did for us and makes us look foolish in the eyes of the world.
Choose Your Battle
Plus, we don’t want to offer people false hope. It could end up hurting our loved ones and others. Some of the churches that insist on meeting in person have become hotspots for the virus and people are dying.
Many articles have been written bashing Christians for putting others at risk, and I can’t blame them. That’s not the story we want to be telling. Churches are defiantly meeting and acting like they are standing up for God and their rights, while in truth they are putting people at risk. Where is the humility and the sacrifice in that attitude? The story we want to be telling right now is that the church is willing to lay down its life to save others. Sounds biblical to me.
What is the Hope of the Gospel?
So if we can’t guarantee that people won’t be touched by the coronavirus, then where’s our hope? What do we have to offer the world?
The greatest story in the Bible is about Jesus rising from the dead. Jesus conquered both sin and death. Jesus showed the world that there is life beyond the grave.
How does this help us today? It helps by showing us that death doesn’t have the last word. God does. We never have to feel boxed in, like we’ve been defeated. That’s what the Easter story is all about, right?
Jesus was arrested, beaten, jailed and finally crucified. If there was ever a story that left people in defeat, and hopeless, it was that. Jesus’ followers were crushed. They had gone home. They had given up. Their dreams were abandoned.
And then… two women discovered that the stone had been rolled away from Jesus’ tomb and he wasn’t in it.
What was God saying? That Jesus had won. He was in control. Jesus could withstand anything thrown at him. Nothing could keep him down. And so if you are with Jesus, you will experience the same victory in the end.
But…“in the end” is the key phrase. Jesus is our model for life and death. Jesus showed us that he was subject to the evil of this world like the rest of us. He died just like any human would. But the difference was, he overcame death.
Are We Protected From All Harm?
We’ll all die too someday. Newsflash! It might be in our sleep at the age of 100. Or it might be next week from the coronavirus. That’s reality. We have to accept that. Our hope isn’t in a long life on earth. If that’s your hope, you might be disappointed when it doesn’t happen for you or someone you love. You see, that’s where we often misunderstand the Bible.
God never promised that we’d live to be 100 and die in our sleep. This world is broken. There’s nothing perfect about it. Bad things can happen to anyone, at any time. That includes the coronavirus. God’s promise is that he’ll walk with us through our trials here on earth, and we’ll live with God forever after we die.
One of the early leaders of the church in the first century was the Apostle Paul. Paul wrote these words in a letter to a church:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39
Paul acknowledged that we may die a premature death. He mentioned the words sword, death, and sheep to be slaughtered. His point was that even though bad things happen, even death…they can’t separate us from God. We will join God in the next life. That’s our hope.
The Resurrection is Our Hope
Paul said if we endure all these bad things without the hope of the resurrection, we have a big problem.
If we only have hope in Christ for this life, we should be pitied more than any people. 1 Corinthians 15:19
Why would he say that? Why should first-century Christians be pitied? Because life was hard back then, especially for Christians. They were often persecuted for their faith. Even killed. Paul was saying, Look, I don’t have any hope to offer you if there’s no resurrection. There is no special exemption from suffering for Christians. In fact, we’ve got it worse than others. So there’s no reason to follow Jesus if there’s no resurrection.
But thankfully, that’s not the case:
Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:19,20
The word “firstfruits” is a farmer’s term. It means the first crop of the season.
Paul was saying that Jesus was the first crop to be resurrected. And all of his followers will be the second crop that is harvested much later in the season. We will rise again with a new body just like Jesus did.
That’s our hope. That’s our promise. We can look death in the eyes without fear because we know that it’s not the end of our story.
Let’s not add to the gospel what was never there. We have good news. But if the messengers of good news misunderstand and misapply God’s word it will only mislead the world and our message will be lost.