A number of Christians have said to me that God will keep us safe from COVID-19 and that we can treat the government’s advice lightly. I want to be very clear in saying that this is unwise, theologically incorrect and socially irresponsible.
To be sure, we can trust God to save us (either now or on the last day) if we are following his calling. He gives us these promises so we know it is safe to follow Jesus even if that means following Jesus into a very dangerous place. But if we are not following Jesus into danger, if we are walking into danger of our own accord, all bets are off.
Now, conceivably, over weeks and months to come we might face situations where following Jesus means ignoring government advice. In that case God will either keep us safe (as he did with Paul on Malta in Acts 28:1-10) or we will be martyrs and we can expect resurrection on the last day (as with Stephen in Acts 7:54-60). In the case of both Paul and Stephen, they were following Jesus and they became great witnesses. Which is what the word “martyr” means – a witness.
But I suspect most, if not all, of the times we are tempted to ignore government advice will not be about following Jesus. They will be about something else like pride or because we don’t like change. Do you want to die as a witness to pride? That’s not a Biblical aspiration.
If you were standing on a railway track with a train hurtling towards you, would you just say “the Lord will keep me safe”. Do you not think God is saying “Get off the track – I gave you legs to keep you safe”? COVID-19 is a train hurtling towards us and taking government advice is using the natural skills God has given us to keep us safe.
Even Jesus chose not to rely on God keeping him safe when Satan tempted him to throw himself off the temple (Matt 4:5-7). In fact it is very interesting to notice in this situation that it was Satan who was actually saying that God would keep Jesus safe. So, clearly, “God will keep you safe” is not always the right advice.
But there is more even than your own safety. The government is telling us what we all need to do if we are to prevent a situation where over 2 million people die in the course of a few months. (Check my maths: 3% of 66 million people in the UK is 2 million and based on experience elsewhere 3% is a very conservative estimate of the death toll if we let the health services get overwhelmed). You are keeping yourself from being infected mainly to slow the spread of COVID-19 through our population. You are not primarily being asked to be selfish and save yourself, you are being asked to lay aside your own wants so that 2 million people do not have to die. That sounds a bit like something Jesus said (John 15:13).
So, what about trusting God? What about God acting supernaturally? Amen to this. Let us pray day and night that God steps in supernaturally against COVID-19. Let us rebuke the virus in Jesus’ name. Let us expect miracles. But just as we go to a doctor when we are sick as well as praying, let us also take the natural action the government is advising.
Thank you Tom, very thoughtful and helpful, whilst reminding us of the challenges and dangers we face walking hand-in-hand with Jesus.
Clearly laid out as ever Tom.
This is good (and profoundly Christian) advice.
Tha is for this Tom, excellently put.
Thank you for your wise words and timely theological reflection.
Thanks, Tom. Very clear and helpful.
Wise words and explained succinctly – may need repeating from time to time, as /when/if necessary