The world is in a crisis, there is no denying it.
However (and I find this quite ironic, considering where the virus originated), the Chinese symbol for ‘crisis’, can be separated into two symbols; one meaning ‘danger’ and the other one meaning ‘opportunity’. This is indeed an accurate description of a crisis, as on the one hand it is definitely dangerous, while on the other hand, though, there is also an opportunity in every crisis.
For those of us who are Jesus-followers, this is an opportunity to make a positive difference in the world; to shine Jesus’ light; especially when it is dark all around us. In fact, the apostle Paul urges us to: “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” (Ephesians 5:16)
Therefore, we have to make the most of the opportunity that is in front of us. At the very least, I believe this means that we should use this crisis to grow in faith, learn to really rely on and trust God and thus become better versions of ourselves.
Therefore, let’s use this time to focus on God; spend more time with Him. Be in regular contact with our friends and family; strengthen the relationships with the people around us and become more like Jesus wants us to be.
We are definitely not the first people in history to go through a crisis and we can learn so much from other Jesus-followers who also faced crises in their time. Like us, they were acutely aware of the danger they faced and yet, they seized the opportunity and managed to have a major positive impact on the world around them as a result.
Between 249 and 262 AD, a massive plague hit the Roman Empire, called the Plague of Cyprian. We don’t know exactly what it was, but historical sources tell us that every house was affected by it; that it killed indiscriminately; men, women, children, regardless of their station in society. At one stage, around 5,000 people died per day!
This was an extremely dangerous time. However, it was during this period, that those who followed Jesus, really distinguished themselves in a positive way. In fact, they handled the whole situation in such a vastly different way than the pagans, that even the Roman Emperors noted this and told their own pagan priests to step up their game and at least match the Christians in taking care of the sick. They couldn’t do this, though, because there was no basis in their faith to do this. For the Christians, on the other hand, “loving your neighbour as yourself” was a core part of what they believed. And Jesus’ command in John 13:34-35 was central to what they believed:
John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
When the first symptoms of the plague appeared, pagans often pushed the sufferers away and fled from their loved ones, throwing them into the streets before they were dead, where piles of dead and dying people lay. In contrast with this, Christians responded by caring for the sick, providing food and water and helping wherever they could, whether people were Christians or not. It is reckoned, that this basic form of nursing may have reduced the number of people who died, by as much as two-thirds. This action in the face of danger, did not go unnoticed by the pagan society. In fact, what is interesting, is that although Christians took care of non-believers as well, they were totally outnumbered and couldn’t possibly help everyone. So, although some pagans were nursed by Christians, all Christians received this care. Hence, Christians, as a group, would have enjoyed a far superior survival rate.
As a direct result of the Christian response to this crisis, the world witnessed communal love by the Christians like they’d never seen before. And because they sacrificed themselves, in many cases, to help non-Christians, the Church experienced exponential growth as these pagan survivors converted to the Christian faith in their masses.
Like the believers of almost 18 centuries ago, we should not be under any illusions that this really is a dangerous time we live in. Like them, though, we also need to realise, that no matter how dark a situation may be, it is always an opportunity for God to shine His light through us.
Therefore, let’s continue to trust God in the midst of the crisis and continue to ask for His intervention, wisdom and guidance. Let’s give all our anxieties to Him and continue to pray for the leaders, frontline workers and scientists and let’s be real agents of hope, love and kindness to the people around us. Even if we can’t always have physical contact with others, we can still use all the tools available to us to encourage and support those who are struggling.
May it be said of us, as it was of the Christians in the 3rd Century, that we stood out in society, that we distinguished ourselves, because of the way we handled this crisis. That we were the ones bringing hope and life in all our interactions on social media, that we were the ones who were always there for others and in the end, we came out stronger on the other side and helped others to also grow through the process.