Coronavirus appears to have originated in the wet-food markets of Wuhan, where live wild animals are often sold for food. The sellers struggle to make a living, so many use their animal cages as a bed, guarding their livestock while they sleep. This close contact, it has been argued, provided the opportunity for the transfer of the virus from animals to humans. See here* for an Indigenous Australian insight.
When we give to the poor like the marketeers of Wuhan, we often do so out of compassion, out of a sense of responsibility and of solidarity. These are all good motivations, but this example reminds us that there are solid self-interest, self-care, and self-safety motives for giving to the poor. God has set us in a connected world. What we do affects others. The whole creation – not just people – groans for the kingdom to come (Rom 8:22). A recent news story featured an oyster farmer who had inherited the farm from his father. He was bemoaning the fact that he could not pass it on to his children. It no longer produced oysters at a level that could sustain a family business. The temperature of the water had changed. We have all helped to change the temperature of the water. The Coronavirus health message is clear: The health of the poorest in the global community is critical to the health of the whole global community. In concerning ourselves with their health we will find our own healing (Isaiah 58:7-9).
God is in the business of directing the history of nations. Repeatedly in the prophets we hear how the Lord of history determines the future of the nations (Isaiah 2:4). Is this what is happening now? Because the virus travels person to person, all are at risk. Cities all over the world have been impacted, and often the poorest people are most vulnerable. The first spread reflected the travel of the wealthy; Milan and then New York, but now it is cities of the poor such as Mumbai, Dhaka and Sao Paulo. It is as if God bringing low the proud (Luke 1:51-52) and reminding us powerfully that we are in this together – no one is exempt.
I have always taken our dog for a morning walk, so I know the local morning walkers. These days my wife joins me, and we use the commuting time that we have saved to go for a longer walk. There are a lot more walkers these days. Families are rediscovering jig-saw puzzles and warm ways of being together. And the simple joys of a book or a garden and many familiar things that we have been rushing past, have shown their true value. What is God saying? Life does not consist in busyness or consumption or power! It never has! All the essentials of life; love, relationship and spiritual sustenance are still fully and freely available.
Churches have had to stop and rethink what it means to be church, now we can’t put on a big show on Sunday. At our church, we have never engaged with each other with such joy and such depth. Churches are dropping notes in letterboxes, not just of their members, but across their communities, offering to lend a hand. We are the people who are unflustered by pandemics. We stand in the constancy of Christ’s living presence. We stand in the compassionate and courageous tradition of Christians who risked their lives to give victims of an earlier Roman pandemic a proper burial. This is the time to offer our communities a steady, compassionate hand and a pathway to Christ.
The virus has made its way to places as poor or poorer than the wet markets of Wuhan. To countries where hospitals and health care are a shadow of those in Milan, New York or Sydney. Their only real protection is their isolation from the rest of the world. In South Sudan, the first cases of the virus were four UN workers. The general population can’t afford to travel. In places like this, Coronavirus could have an enormous impact. What is God saying here, but to get outside of ourselves and engage our compassion, our sense of responsibility and of solidarity, and help – to give generously? It will be an act of self-care that will help to heal us.
Colin Scott, COCOA Director
*Watch the video here https://bit.ly/COVID5