Cards drawn by 3:16 Church to encourage healthcare workers on the frontlines. Photo by saltandlight.sg
Pastor Wong Guoliang, senior pastor of Agape Baptist Church, wrote a letter to his congregation on January 30, 2020, as the COVID-19 situation was unfolding. Here is an excerpt:
God is love, and He commands us to love our neighbours as ourselves.
I believe we have just entered a season where God is calling us right now as a church to put what we have heard in action – to express agape love in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18).
Different virus, same Spirit
A little history lesson is helpful, lest we lose perspective of what radical agape love for neighbours looks like among Christians.
Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ.
In the early centuries, there were a few major pandemics in the ancient world that infected and killed millions. During each of these, government officials and the wealthy would flee the cities for the countryside to escape contact with those who were infected.
The Christian community, however, remained behind, transforming themselves into a great force of caretakers.
On Easter Sunday in 260 AD, Bishop Dionysius of Corinth praised the efforts of the Christians, many of whom had died while caring for others.
He said: “Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves, and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbours and cheerfully accepting their pains.”
The early Christians’ loving dedication for their neighbours as themselves during times of plague and sickness, whether the sick were believers or not, showcased the beauty of the Gospel message through agape love for others. These Christ-like actions had a huge social impact, and attracted many outsiders to the faith.
Here’s the good news! The same Holy Spirit who dwelled within these saints, leading them to sacrifice themselves courageously in love, dwells within each of us too.
A love for others, motivated by faith
Given the grave situation in Wuhan and increasingly, the rest of Hubei province, the expression of neighbourly love from Christians may look very similar to what was displayed in the early centuries in response to the pandemics.
To live by faith in a time like this is to express this faith through love.
For us in Singapore, at this point, we need to seek the Spirit’s guidance on what neighbourly love looks like – and it may differ for each of us.
For some, it may just mean going the extra mile to give hand sanitisers and masks to others, while for some others working in healthcare or those working in the frontline, it may actually mean putting oneself at significant risk of infection for the good of others.
Even if infection occurs, we must look to God in trust for healing and recovery, so that we may continue to bear fruit in our labour for Him on earth (Philippians 1:21-24).
Regardless of your vocation or station in life, let love be the deepest motivation of your heart.
Clearly, God wants us to respond to the spread of the coronavirus by faith; and to live by faith in a time like this is to let this faith express itself through love (Galatians 5:6).
As a Christian, the question to ask is not: “How can I best avoid this virus during a time like this?” The better question to ask is: “How can I best love others during a time like this?”
Reflection and Discussion
- Take a minute to reflect in honesty. If, and when, COVID-19 hits close to home, what would your response be driven by – fear or love? Present and commit your thoughts to God, knowing that He is near, and He cares for you.
- “How can I best love others during a time like this?” In what ways can you be a source of comfort and blessing to those around you? Pray for wisdom and ask God to guide you to specific actions you can take.