Sunday, May 3, 2020

A Spiritual Pandemic

Dr. Victoria Moots

A pandemic is classified as a global outbreak of a disease and usually starts out locally as an epidemic and then spreads worldwide.  Most viral pandemics are caused by the influenza virus which mutates in character from year to year.  One of the deadliest ones was the Spanish flu of 1918 which killed between 20 to 50 million people. The swine flu (H1N1) was a new strain of that virus and killed approximately 700 million to 1.4 billion people worldwide.  The regular seasonal flu kills between 290 to 650 thousand per year.  The coronavirus (COVID-19) was declared a pandemic on March 12, 2020 and the final devastation of it is yet to be determined.

Viruses such as the influenza virus spread rapidly because they are so contagious, meaning that they can be easily spread from person to person.  When an infected person coughs or sneezes, the virus containing droplets are scattered out into the air.  This is more readily spread when people are in close proximity (within six feet) or when they touch each other.

The Bible contains good information in the Old Testament regarding preventing the spread of disease.  The priests who ministered in the tabernacle in the wilderness were required to wash their hands in the brazen laver after offering sacrifices prior to entering the tabernacle.  Anyone with a draining sore or bloody issue was considered unclean and had to keep themselves separated from the rest of the people.  More specifically, regarding an infectious disease, let us examine the regulations for leprosy, which was a major health concern in those days.  Leviticus 13 describes how to diagnose an active case of leprosy.  If a person met the criteria, he was considered “utterly unclean.”  V. 45 tells us he was to put a covering upon his upper lip, which would be like a modern-day face mask.  V. 46 states, “…he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without [outside] the camp shall his habitation be.”  In other words, he was to be quarantined, away from everyone else.  This was, of course, to prevent the spread of the disease to other people.

Healthcare professionals are following similar guidelines today to limit diseases.  Regarding the spread of COVID-19 we are also limiting the gathering of large groups of people together and avoiding personal contact as much as possible.

But what if we wanted to spread something that was good? In that case we would do the opposite.  After Jesus’ resurrection, just before he ascended back to heaven, he commanded his disciples, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).  They had become personally infected with the good news of the resurrection through close contact with Jesus himself and now they were told to start spreading it around the world, infecting others.  They were to do this by preaching, or spreading the gospel with their mouth, which contained the contagious droplets of the new Christianity virus.

Like any other pandemic, it started out locally as an epidemic and then became worldwide.  We see this when Jesus told his followers in Acts 1:8 “…ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem [locally], and in all Judea [regionally], and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth [worldwide].”  The pandemic of Christianity began initially with the twelve disciples and a few women then increased to 120 who were gathered together in the upper room in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out.  But we also read that more than 500 people had been in contact with Jesus at one time following his resurrection (I Cor. 15:6).  These also had the potential to become infected and spread the virus.  However, the 120 in Jerusalem exposed an even bigger crowd of people, for we read in Acts 2 that a large multitude heard them speak and about 3,000 of them became infected and believed.  After that, “…the Lord added to the church daily…” (v. 47), those that were being saved, and the infection continued to spread by person to person contact.

A virus is spread by the droplets of water that come out of the mouth of an infected person.  The aerosol of those Christians was the Word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ and still has the power to infect anyone who is exposed to it, even today.

After the Day of Pentecost, we read in Acts 3 that Peter and John were going into the temple in Jerusalem to pray and met a lame beggar asking for money.  Peter told him, “Silver  and gold have I  none; but such as I  have give I thee: In  the  name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6).  What did Peter and John have? They had been infected with the Christianity virus, and as commanded by Jesus, were spreading it through his name throughout Jerusalem to anyone with whom they had contact.  Peter not only spread the virus by what came out of his mouth, but he reached out and took the lame man by the hand, making direct physical contact.  This promptly spread the infection to him and he was immediately healed and began to walk and leap and praise God which in turn infected others around him.

The religious leaders of that day now recognized the seriousness of the epidemic of Christianity and tried desperately to keep it from becoming a pandemic.  They took Peter and John aside after that incident to question them.  The chief priests and rulers feared that it would keep spreading and quickly held a council among themselves saying, “But that it spread no further among the people, let us straightly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name” (Acts 4:17), “…and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (v. 18).  Basically, they were telling Peter and John to cover their mouth, with a “mask” of silence, much like we put a mask on an infected person to limit the spread of infected aerosol droplets.  However, Peter and John refused to do this and replied, “we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (v. 20).  They could not hold back the breath of the Holy Spirit which was now flowing through them: “…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34).

Since then Christianity has become a pandemic through the name of Jesus.  Many have tried over the years to stamp it out and Satan continues to do this today.  He persists in trying to remove the name of Jesus or the symbol of the cross from schools, government offices, places of work and even our homes.  Christians all over the world are being persecuted, tortured and killed in an effort to eradicate the name of Jesus and Christianity.

Sadly, there are many in America who claim to be Christians that have never really been infected.  They have no symptoms of the virus that are detectable in their lives.  What symptoms would be expected to be manifested? The three most important symptoms which confirm a suspected case would be praise, joy and love.  Praise and joy would be likely to be manifest in spite of dire circumstances.  We find evidence of this in Acts 5 which states  that the apostles, after being  beaten for  preaching in the name of Jesus, were “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name” (v. 41).  We find further evidence of these symptoms in Paul and Silas after they were beaten and thrown into the inner prison for preaching and had their feet placed in the stocks.  At midnight they “prayed, and sang praises unto God…” (Acts 16:25).  Perhaps they were delirious with the fever from the infection! Jesus, himself, confirmed that love was an important criterion in the diagnosis as stated in John 13:35: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

A person cannot become a Christian simply by hearing about Jesus and reading about him or memorizing the Bible anymore than a person can become infected with the coronavirus simply by hearing about it on the news or reading about it on the internet.  We must have personal contact with Jesus by letting the gospel touch our heart and infect our soul.  In order to claim the name of Jesus and become a Christian we must have had close enough contact with him to be able to say with John, “we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (I John 1:1).  John was so close to Jesus that he leaned on Jesus’ breast and was called the “disciple whom Jesus loved.”  The Word of life was Jesus himself.

As a result of such close personal contact we become infected and there will be evidence in our life that others can see.  With Christ in our life, we can then touch others and spread his love and continue to preach the gospel with our lives, as well as with our mouths.