“Piteous Humanity,” wrote the Spanish author Vicente Blasco Ibáñez in his novel The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, “half-crazed with fear, fleeing in all directions upon hearing the thundering hoof-beats of the Plague, War, Hunger, and Death.”
As I sit in church in the midst of Sunday service I could not help noticing the absence of handshakes during the “passing of the peace.” Somehow in one way or the other this absence symbolized for me the significant disruption coronavirus has caused our lives.
My friend Sarah has temporarily given up taking the subways and buses for fear of contracting the virus. Fortunately her retired husband Luke has “volunteered” to drive her to and from her part time job every day.
I see myself relatively more fortunate because my wife has just recently retired, so that spares me from a husband’s “volunteer” job in times like these. Too, I don’t need to worry about my son’s commute because he drives to work. But these do not spare me the common sensible anxiety I feel for the rest of the human race.
Last week a relative told me that almost all of her former classmates overseas could not make it to their 50th class reunion. They canceled their tickets.
On TV news about my homeland, I notice that the usual heavy traffic heading to the malls has eased considerably. The news then showed parents waiting for their children outside schools to make sure the kids did not take to the malls before going home.
A large portion of the news is all about the falling stock market and its effect on the world market.
It’s all over town. We’re bombarded with the reality of travel restrictions, workplace shutdowns, canceled public events, schools closing, and drastic measures -- from travel bans to quarantine -- to stop the spread of the disease.
A moment ago I was handed a letter from a Wuhan Pastor addressed to all Christians about how the church should look at this epidemic. It is quite a long letter, so I have tried to condense it as succinctly as I could:
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Brothers and sisters, because of the Wuhan virus, our family has ventured out of doors as little as possible. The situation here is so critical it is apparent we are facing a test of our faith. As Christians we have a responsibility to pray for everyone in this city who are fearful and to bring them to the peace of Christ. This is the peace in the midst of disaster and death, for Christ has already overcome these things.
Christ is with us even as we face the pestilence in this city. This pestilence cannot harm us, and even if it kills us, we still win for we will enter into His glory. If in reading this you have no peace, I encourage you to call on the Lord to give you insight until the peace of Christ reigns in your heart.
Not a sparrow falls without the will of the Father. If God, because of one righteous man withheld judgment on Sodom, what more of the city of Wuhan in which we live? The righteous in this city are far more than just one. There are thousands of us here. We are this city’s Abrahams and Johahses. We will prevail.
The past few days I have received many inquiries from foreign pastors. They are concerned for this city and seek to serve the city. I ask them instead to turn their eyes upon Jesus, and not be concerned about my welfare. Kind-hearted people, especially the medical teams, are already doing everything to serve this city even at the risk of their own lives. Again, with God’s grace, we will prevail.
This city will be saved.
A Wuhan Pastor
January 23, 2020
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My take on this is that we must not stay on the same level as the disease. To fear it is to fight it, and to fight it is to affirm its dominance over us. Fight it and it remains as prevalent as ever. Why? Because we cannot fight it at the same level that it exists. The Pale Horse is deadly and mighty. We are no match to it. We must move up to where it does not and never did exist, and that is in God. Pardon my over-simplifying it, I do not intend to over-simplify, but it is as simple as that.
The Pale Horse is not killed but subdued. Our Faith does not posit absolute antagonism, which only breeds deadly virulence, but transformation by turning our thoughts, words, and deeds to God. Again, it is as simple as that.
Does this mean throwing all caution to the wind, now that we have God’s protection? Not at all. We should still take safety measures. By way of analogy, let me give the example of a pedestrian crossing a busy street: even if we are under the protection of the traffic light that says “walk,” we should still look right and left in crossing the street. It is called prudence.
So: (a) avoid crowded places, (b) maintain at least one meter distance away from a person who coughs and sneezes, (c) wash your hands often with soap and water or wipe your hands with alcohol based sanitizer, (d) cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing, (e) avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes, (e) use face mask if you have the flu or if you are attending to a patient with respiratory illness, (f) quarantine yourself if you are ill. And a host of other common sense precautions.
We have forgotten our connection. We need to re-connect by “moving up.” By doing so, I believe the virus will leave you untouched, like water off the natong (taro leaf). The Apostle Paul describes this as “putting on the whole armor of God.” (Ephesians 6: 11)
In God’s territory, the Pale Horse is subdued.
That goes for the other three horses of the Apocalypse.