Most people are familiar with the idea of a “cold and flu season”, and the current pandemic has people across the globe looking forward anxiously to the end of it for this year. Fresh warm air and bright sunlight are deadly to viruses, so it is hoped that this first day of spring (in the Northern Hemisphere) will start a countdown to the end of this contagion.
But the seasonal nature of the pandemic can also be understood in the context of 2 Timothy 4:2 which tell us to be ready “in season and out” to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. ’ This pandemic can be understood as a fantastic opening for Christians to proclaim the truth, but in order to properly seize this moment we have to be equipped. I hope to assist with that in whatever modest way I can.
Before we get started, let me say that I do not find any evidence in Scripture that this pandemic is God’s doing or His will. I believe that this is either from Satan or simply another consequence of the fall. But regardless of the cause, let’s remember Genesis 5:20 and work with God to use what is intended for evil and accomplish something good.
The good thing is for people hear how much God loves them and wants them to come into a relationship with Him based solely on that love. In fact, there is nothing better than that. The mindset of those deeply concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to do that in a way that will resonate with both their emotional and their rational sides. Approaches that hit both notes are very effective.
“Sympathy” seems to be a pretty rare commodity when it comes to evangelism these days. Christians are much more likely to preach the consequences of sin than start form a point of common ground. But the pandemic is the perfect chance to begin with sympathizing, because the fear felt by non-Christians is something we ourselves have felt before. It is the practical application of 1 Corinthians 6:11.
Those fearful of COVID-19 have been disappointed by the medical system and their national government. They have put their confidence in these institutions and trusted them to take care of them and protect them. Effective vaccinations and security checkpoints were depended on to be a shield and bulwark. Put together, these two institutions presented what seemed to be an unconquerable Goliath.
The toppling of that behemoth has left those who trusted it fearful and confused. It’s easy to start a conversation (conducted at the proper social distance, of course) about how these institutions should have seen this coming. Everyone remembers the SARS, MERS, Zika and Ebola outbreaks. From there it is simple to draw the conclusion that institutions created by mankind are inherently unreliable.
“If we can’t trust those what can we trust?” is the fundamental question every Christian longs to answer, and it is the natural conclusion to the conversation. The reasons given to trust God in the current circumstance can branch in a variety of directions. One way is to quote Psalm 91 about how God protects those who abide in His love. This leads directly to a discussion of the perfect example of that love.
In some conversations it will be possible to answer that fundamental question with a personal testimony of our own disappointment with human institutions — and with ourselves — that led to our acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Savior. This approach may be appropriate for those who are deeply caught in a web of fear. Listen carefully to what you are being told and follow that lead.
With individuals who are more inclined to an intellectual discussion, explaining how suffering originated from man’s disobedience may be the way to go. This authenticates Scripture as the basis for rational decision making. Few people will argue these days against the statement that “It’s a fallen world.” This is also an effective response to the false charge that God is causing this pandemic as punishment.
It is probably not a good idea to preach Christ in the current situation in the context of the coming Tribulation. This approach is fraught because once fears of the pandemic subside the teaching becomes open to ridicule. The other approaches outlined above can continue to resonate long after this current crisis has ended.
The key to seizing this opportunity is not only to remember how we felt when we were without hope, but also to seriously evaluate how much hope we are putting in the Word of God ourselves. 2 Corinthians 3:15 tells us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. That’s a great thing to do before — or even if — we evangelize others, and is advice that never goes out of season.