Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel. Philippians 1:27
The Antonine Plague sometimes referred to as the Plague of Galen, erupted in 165 CE, at the height of Roman power throughout the Mediterranean world. The first phase of the outbreak would last until 180 CE affecting the entirety of the Roman Empire, while a second outbreak occurred in 251-266 CE, compounding the effects of the earlier.
An estimated 60-70 million people died throughout the Roman Empire at a rate of about 5,000 per day. At the height of the plague, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius launched persecutions against Christians who refused to worship the pagan gods of Rome, which the emperor believed, angered the gods whose wrath made itself known in the form of a devastating epidemic. However, because Christians were willing to sacrifice their safety to assist those affected with the plague, Christianity spread rapidly throughout the empire. In many cases, Christians often stayed to assist their pagan neighbors while medical doctors fled.
Whereas the world is in a state of panic as government leaders try to cope with the effect of coronavirus in their countries, Christians are reminded to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. What does that mean concerning the current pandemic? First, we have to pray for the victims of coronavirus.
The level of panic and mass hysteria is becoming alarming. People are looking for assurance that only God can give. As followers of Christ, we have to direct them to Christ through prayer, fellowship, and evangelism. The most effective way to direct them to Christ is by conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Secondly, extend help whenever possible. Many people are losing their jobs due to the economic impact related to the virus. In some cases, there may be a neighbor or a fellow church member that will experience hardships in meeting basic needs. We have to be willing to do as our fellow Christians did during the Antonine Plague and offer assistance whenever we can.
Third, we have to remind people that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. They need to know that our Lord offers the peace that passes all understanding so they will stop panicking. My sister told me this morning that one of her coworkers who do not believe in Jesus told her yesterday that he and his wife started to read the Bible because of the virus. My sister feels she now has an opportunity to witness about Jesus to all her colleagues.
The virus is disrupting everything from business to schools. It is wreaking havoc in the global economy and may even cause the stock market to crash. However, it is also presenting an opportunity for Christians to show whose they are as followers of Jesus Christ.
Every crisis offers an opportunity to proclaim Jesus. Many of the people who contacted coronavirus in South Korea were missionaries who were spreading the gospel in China. I understand the need to take precautions and avoid large crowds as recommended by medical professionals. However, that should not be done to the detriment of spreading the gospel meaningfully. We should always conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. After all, this virus will cease to be a threat at some point. What people will remember is the way we treated them during the crisis.
Prayer- Blessed Lord, please give all your followers the wisdom and discernment to be your hands, your feet, and show your love throughout this coronavirus crisis