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What Faith Looks Like in a Pandemic

I will walk back into my school building with other teachers in less than two weeks. It will be our first gathering since we left on spring break in early March. That is subject to change because plans are apt to be revised when your school is near the epicenter of a COVID-19 hotspot. 

Recently, a teacher from another part of the state asked me how firm our local districts’ plans were. I responded that most districts’ reopening blueprints were detailed and firm but built on a foundation of Jell-O. Any little wind of change could completely upset plans that took countless hours to formulate.

Pandemic Anxiety

It is a given that these plans will not please everyone. A recent informal poll of a teachers’ group I lead indicated that 80% of teachers were suffering “a considerable amount of anxiety” over the prospects of returning for face-to-face classes.

I did not attempt to break the respondents down into demographic groups, but I know many of my fellow Christian teachers told me they were struggling with anxiety. Moreover, I have been battling anxiety as I am in a high-risk group.

Some Christian teachers expressed that they were not anxious about the prospects of catching the coronavirus. Some take it further and convey the idea that no believer should fear working in a potentially virus-rich environment. It seems like a spiritually wise statement, but is it?

Honoring God in Faith

We could look at any choice and say that we can trust God to protect us no matter what. For example, suppose I decide to walk across a busy 5-lane interstate highway just after sundown. Would that be an intelligent, God-honoring choice?
In the wilderness, Satan tempted Jesus three times. Luke 4: 9-13 relates the third temptation:

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.

Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.”

A Lack of Faith or Wisdom in Action?

Anxious teachers across the country have been trying to get their local schools to reconsider the push for face-to-face instruction. Is advocating for a less risky teaching environment an implicit lack of faith in the Almighty?

After Paul’s transforming Damascus road experience, he started preaching Jesus as the risen Messiah. Scripture tells us that Saul’s transformation from a zealous persecutor of Christians to Paul, the devoted disciple of Christ, baffled and enraged the influential Jewish leaders in town. As a result, they plotted to kill him. In Acts 9, we learn, “Day and night, they kept a close watch on the city gates to kill him.”

How did Paul and his company respond? Did he march boldly to the city gates and face the assassins firm in his faith? 

No, Luke tells us how Paul’s followers took him out at night, put him in a basket, and lowered him through a hole in the wall. Some might criticize Paul for lack of faith, but that requires us to come to the scriptures with a preconceived notion that faith always looks the same. Sometimes faith involves running away.

After Jesus’ birth, an angel of the Lord told Joseph to take Mary and Jesus and flee into Egypt to avoid the murderous Herod.

A Christian Response to the Pandemic

I am not attempting to tell believers how they should respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. Sometimes we must stand our ground in faith like David facing Goliath, but there are other times when wisdom might require a different response. Many years after the Goliath encounter, King David, who the Bible calls “a man after God’s own heart,” bolted out of Jerusalem in fear of his homicidal son, Absalom.

Whatever our decisions in this time of this pandemic, we need to lift up and encourage others whether they are believers or not. In doing so, we are sharing the grace that God has poured out on us.

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