Introduction. With concerns over the rapid spread of the coronavirus, the panic-buying of toilet paper that seems to have started in Australia, has now gone global. Apparently this panic buying signifies a human desire to be in control. The reality of course, is that no one, for the present at least, seems to be truly able to control the spread of this virus. It is infectious and potentially deadly – especially for the older generation. The reality is that it points us to something that we generally don’t want to discuss – the transient nature and fragility of life.
In an article, ‘Coronavirus: Doctor’s honest post about coronavirus goes viral’ (www.news.com.au), Shireen Kahlil writes of a Toronto disease specialist, Dr. Abdu Sharkawy, who says he is more concerned that the mass panic caused by the virus could do more damage than the virus itself. Shireen Kahlil points out that while Dr. Sharkawy is ‘concerned about the “implications of a novel infectious agent” that continues to find new footholds in different soil – it’s more the world’s reaction that has him worried’.
Given the concerns that everyone rightly has about COVID-19, how should God’s people respond? It’s essential that we keep God’s truth at the forefront of our thinking and emotions.
Minds & Hearts. In Colossians 3:1 Paul the Apostle writes: So if you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
These words form the turning point of Paul’s Letter as he moves from his foundational words about the truth and the nature of the faith (Colossians 1 & 2) to the implications of the faith for living now.
In the first two chapters of his Letter he paints the picture of Jesus’ person and work and the implications for us. Indeed, Paul tells us that with the coming of Jesus Christ the new age of God’s kingdom has dawned. This new age co-exists with the old which the New Testament speaks of as ‘the world’. For the present a door is open, allowing people to pass from the old age to the new. In Colossians 1:13 he puts it this way: God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves… (Colossians 1:13).
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the foundational pillars of the new age. When we turn to Jesus, recognizing that he is truly God incarnate, and acknowledging that we have not honored him as we should, he is willing to forgive us.
The imagery Paul uses of our relationship with Christ is being buried (2:12) and dying with him (2:20). Now in Colossians 3:1 he says: So if you have been raised with Christ… The critical word is if… If we have turned to Christ in heart-felt repentance and faith so we will be raised with him.
In other words when we turn to Jesus Christ our relationship with God changes. Because God now declares us to be his sons and daughters, we have a new way of looking at the world and our own lives. Physically we are still in the old world, but our names are registered in the new. Paul wants the light of this new status to fall on everything we say and do. ‘Live,’ Paul is saying, ‘as though you belong, not to the earth, but in heaven.’
Hearts. This means that we need no longer feel that we are helpless victims of a world with all its faults and failures, disease and death.
Although his readers lived in Colossae, they also lived in Christ. In one sense for these people both Colossae and Christ were ’home’.
In the midst of the uncertainties of life, what is your anchor throughout the day? Indeed, what is your waking thought? Apparently John Stott, the greatly esteemed English preacher and writer had the practice of saying, “Good morning God the Father; good morning Jesus; and good morning Holy Spirit”. All very English and very formal, you might say, but how different this is from those whose first waking thought is an irreverent, “Good Lord, it’s morning”.
None of us can escape the uncertainties of life. None of us is secure. Yet how easy it is for the things and the concerns of this world to dominate our hearts.
Yes, there is every reason to be concerned about the coronavirus, but God’s people should not panic. Let me repeat Paul’s words: So if you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Prayer. Almighty God, you have conquered death through your dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ and have opened to us the gate of everlasting life: grant us by your grace to set our mind on things above, so that by your continual help our whole life may be transformed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit in everlasting glory. Amen. (BCP, Easter Day)
Suggested reading – Colossians 3:1-4