The Wrong Global Message: COVID and The Gospel

March 12, 2020: the day COVID intersected with my world. 

I am sure you remember the day it intersected with yours. That was the day I learned that my children would return home to begin what we thought would be two weeks of virtual school. Teachers, including my husband who teaches middle school, scrambled to adapt and adjust to teaching from home. Offices closed. Working parents transitioned to work from home, while trying to add homeschool to their list of responsibilities, and front-line workers pressed on amidst fears that doing so would be putting themselves at risk. Doctors and nurses prepared for the worst and pressed on through their own unknowns. Soon it became clear that what we thought would be a two week hiccup was going to become our “new normal.” COVID was not going anywhere anytime soon. Over the next year, we all watched as our country and our world morphed into something completely new and different right before our eyes. Today the words pandemic, COVID, coronavirus, lockdown, social distancing, Zoom meetings, and virtual school, are commonplace throughout the world. However, less than 22 months ago, many of us had never heard these words, or if we had, we didn’t think much about them. Today, you will be hard-pressed to find anyone in the world, from the biggest city to the most rural, remote Himalayan mountainside, in every single language on the globe, who hasn’t heard of this world-wide pandemic called COVID and been affected by it in some way. In almost all places, this message of COVID-19 and the risks associated with it have not only reached every corner of our world, but the message that this virus can cause widespread physical death has changed, altered, and transformed individual and collective life in ways that will have lasting effects for generations to come. 

As a woman who has been transformed by my relationship with God and called to give my life away for the sake of others, considering the spiritual realities in our world and in the lives of those around me is natural for me. With over a decade of experience serving in international contexts, a background in business, a masters level intercultural education and a very inquisitive mind, conversations and thoughts regarding how we as Christians get our message of hope and salvation to our neighbors and the nations are ones I have daily. For these reasons, I am not unfamiliar with the concept of a worldwide message. I believe the words of John 3:16 that are found in the Bible, 

“For God so loved the whole world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” 

and the words given to the first followers of Jesus, in Matthew 28:19-20, to make sure that the world knew of God’s love for them, 

“Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit….”

Over 2000 years ago, people were given a message for every person scattered about the whole earth. It is a message that is full of hope, full of grace, and full of peace. It’s such a positive, life-altering message that one would think that this is a message that would have easily spread throughout the whole world by now. The God of the universe loving the whole world? Providing answers to the existence of life and life after death? What a powerful global message! However, sharing this message has required a lot from us as Christians, and although Christians know what God’s Word says about the responsibility and privilege each has to carry this message of hope and faithfully share it, carrying and sharing this message has required learning new languages, sacrificing comforts, thinking about others first, going across the street and around the world, and humbly yet boldly, telling people, there exists a heart problem that humanity can’t solve on it’s own.

 In Romans 3:22-23 we learn that,

“...there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”

Let’s face it. That’s not a message that is easy to share. It is not socially acceptable, especially in 2021, to tell people that anything they are doing or believe may be wrong, and it is especially not acceptable to tell someone that they are a sinner and fall short of God’s glory. So, often instead of helping to spread this message, Christians have kept this message to themselves or hoped that someone else will say it, perhaps a pastor, a Bible teacher, podcast host, or famous person. Thoughts like this have their origin in fear, not in faith.

It’s so sad that our message gets stuck there. It’s so sad that as Christians, we often so quickly forget the rest of the message, the very message that has given us so much hope, we keep to ourselves. The sobering, yet extremely wonderful words found in Romans 6:23 and the following verses, 

“For the wages (payment) of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Romans 5:8, 

“But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

1 John 1:9,

“If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

 And Romans 10:9-13,

If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

These are the things I know to be true and believe deeply at the core of who I am. They change the way I live and spend my days. The above verses form the foundational truth of the greater, right worldwide message: God created this world and humans very good. God and humans lived in a perfect relationship with each other. However, people were not satisfied and disobeyed God. Sin and physical death entered into the perfect world which caused holy God and sinful humans to be separated. But God loved the world so much and in such a way that He did not allow that to be the final outcome. He gave us His only son, Jesus. Jesus lived the perfect life that we should live and died the death that we deserve (because the payment of our sin is death), and He did that in our place, for us. Not only that, He was raised from the dead and is alive in heaven, proving His victory over sin and death and giving us hope in the eternal life to come. What this means is that as 1 John 1:9 and Romans 10:9-13 say, if anyone believes this, they will be saved. Jesus died so that I can live and you can live.

We are eternal, and this life is temporary. The decisions we each make today to follow or deny God matter for eternity. This message that I have, that all Christians have, is truly a matter of life and death. The scariest part is that this death is far different from a physical death. Our global message is a message far more glorious, far more powerful, with far more wonderful promises and serious warnings than the COVID message. However, the global message Christians have had and been responsible for for the past 2000 years has still not reached every corner of the earth. Please let that sink in. COVID has proven to us that in the 21st century, it is possible for humanity to spread a global message to every corner of the earth in such a way that lives are drastically transformed in less than 1 year. What is it about this message that has allowed it to spread like wildfire to every corner of the earth? Sadly, it is a message of fear: there is a virus so contagious and so potentially deadly that you need to pull your kids from school, stop working, stop socializing, stop traveling about, take medical intervention (vaccine), and consider it in all of your decisions. This message of the threat of quick and sweeping physical death has literally changed humanity today. It has changed us individually and collectively and changed us for generations to come. 

Our world has proven that we will do whatever necessary to keep humanity from physical death. We have taken drastic measures, consulted leaders in every nation, used every media source available, and the message has been so universal, so unified and so personal that even with widely differing and often divisive opinions about masks and lockdowns the message that COVID is real, dangerous, and to be mortally feared has been clearly communicated, globally and swiftly. We didn’t need to create any new translation apps, write down any new languages, send people across borders (they were mostly closed anyway, remember?). Simply, we had to believe the message so strongly that we were willing to do whatever necessary to get the message out and protect ourselves and our world from it’s effects. The truth is, COVID has revealed our deepest fear: death. And as Christians we have the antidote for fear of death: a message for the whole world, a message that is for everyone, a message of good news. A message that does not delineate between good people and bad people because we all know that no one is perfect, between rich and poor, black and white, healthy or sick, one nationality or another. It is a message of life for any and all who will believe. 

Jesus’ words in John 14:6, 

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” 

Although the message is for everyone, not everyone has heard it and not all believe, so not all have life. As COVID has proven, many people worldwide still live in extreme fear. This needs to be our motivation as Christians: we have been entrusted with the message of life, and it is urgent that we get it out. And we should be encouraged by the pace of the fast traveling message of COVID that not only has been heard but that drastically has changed people’s daily lives. Getting a worldwide message out is easier than perhaps we thought. Unfortunately, our fear and complacency are not the only things holding this global message back. We have an enemy, known as Satan (an accuser and adversary pointing out the wrong, the imperfections, the fears, the doubts), who is very content with the message of COVID to spread like wildfire. Satan will not stand in the way of a global message of fear. However, regarding our good news message of salvation and life, we have seen throughout history that he will do anything he can to keep that message from spreading. Throughout history, Jesus’ followers have given their very lives as martyrs for this message of good news, and we have seen the devastating effects as so much is done to tear down Christianity and it’s message from inside and outside of the church. 

Jesus says in John 10:10: 

“The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

As we’ve seen with COVID, a global message of fear and death, works toward Satan’s plan, and so, it will have little resistance. But the message of peace and life, works against Satan’s plan, and so, it will have much resistance. This should not surprise us, but rather, it should spur us on to share this right, better, good global message with one unified, bold, loving voice, so that it spreads to the far corners of the earth overcoming the fears of people regarding death. We can never again say that we don’t have what is necessary. If language, people, travel, visas, and money did not hinder the global COVID message, it certainly can’t hinder the global message of good news about Jesus, a message given to us by God himself for His glory and our good. 

There is more to the importance of spreading this global good message of hope and life aside from the amazing gift of life and salvation. We are also told that when this message is told to the whole world, then the end will come, which is an end of suffering and sadness and fear completely. 

Matthew 24:!4

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

If you don’t have a new life through Jesus, that might sound scary to you, but it’s actually the greatest news in the world, because God’s Word tells us that when the end of this broken earth comes, the new heaven and the new earth comes to stay. And it will be perfect! This abundant life that I have written about…? It can be yours both now in this life and in your eternal life to come. That’s the best news and a message worth spreading!

Revelation 21:3-5

“I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!””

If you don’t know Jesus, today is the day that His message has come to you. Open your heart to Him and don’t delay. We live in fear of death, all the while knowing that no matter what, whether COVID or cancer or car accident or old age, we all will die. None of us are exempt from death. No matter how many vitamin waters, collagen capsules, and vegetables we consume… no matter how faithfully we work out, how much money we have... we can’t outrun physical death. But we can run into a new life with Jesus, which includes joy, hope, and peace, both now and for eternity. 

If you are a Christian reading this, we have work to do. We’ve been silent and full of excuses for far too long. Let’s call upon the name of the Lord in prayer and in deep dependence on Him. Let’s confess our lack of faith, our fear of man and our tendencies to spend our time and treasures on ourselves and not on getting this life-saving message to the world. Forgive us Lord! Help us God! Let’s remember that we have been given the greatest message, the greatest gift we could ever give the world. If each of us began to pray and started by telling one person this message today and another tomorrow and another the next day, there is no end to all that God through His Spirit can do. Until Jesus comes again, we know the right global message that the world needs, and together we can spread it like wildfire.   

“The outbreak of the [corona]virus has sickened more than 80 million people. At least 1.7 million people have died.” 

NY Times Article By Derrick Bryson Taylor March 17, 2021

2020 Global Population: 7,809,354,098 

People who have never heard the name of Jesus: 282 million

People dying DAILY without Christ: 155,473 

People dying MONTHLY without Christ: 4,664,190

Statistics taken from IMB Annual Report and People

**My purpose in writing this article is not to make a statement about COVID and how it’s been handled or to encourage debate about it. I know that COVID is a real and dangerous virus, and it has personally affected many that I know. COVID has taken a lot from us. We have all lost a lot due to COVID, and I am not trying to minimize that. I am simply using this global message as an example. Please refrain from hateful comments. They will be deleted.**