As I write, the coronavirus pandemic has shut down the planet—churches, schools, museums, borders, economic markets, the city of New York, the nation of India. To flatten the curve of contagion and to not overwhelm health care capacities, the whole world has been firmly instructed to keep socially distant and self-quarantine if sick. CT has published an unprecedented volume of online content equipping the church to respond faithfully to COVID-19. We remain firmly committed to the print magazine but decided to print this issue as a combined May/June issue in order to soften the economic challenges and best serve the church in this moment.
The pandemic presses us Christians into practicing our communal faith as a digital body of Christ. Yet our prayers persevere unimpeded. You don’t have to be together to pray. You don’t even have to speak words (Rom. 8:26).
The situation has moved so rapidly that you, possibly reading this while hunkered down in your house, may know by now whether hand washing and more assertive public health measures have warded off the worst. Doomsday scenarios forebode billions infected and millions dead—mostly the old, the already sick, and the poor. Best-case scenarios show the coronavirus petering out with help from drugs and warm weather.
For all of its hardship, I pray the pandemic left us only as the apostle Paul promised, “struck down but not destroyed” and “[always carrying] around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Cor. 4:9–10). Paul uses the word body as a singular, suggesting that he may have in mind our collective body as Christians, whether physical or digital. Our whole-body response to the pandemic revealed the life of Jesus in our body, whether by collectively and lovingly providing supplies and support or by canceling gatherings to prevent viral transmission. The same goes for issues addressed in this month’s cover story by managing editor Andy Olsen, on the pandemic’s reach into the developing world and our need to help contain it there too. Likewise with Maria Baer’s piece on pregnancy centers. Disrupted as they have been by this crisis, it may do much to validate their growing philosophy that caring for moms and babies happens best in the context of whole families and communities. “If one [body] part suffers, every part suffers with it...” (1 Cor. 12:26).
Down south where I come from, we used to admonish one another with a little reminder: “Wash your hands and say your prayers, germs and Jesus are everywhere.” I hope as I write that both our obedience and our prayers proved sufficient to halt this pandemic. That, despite the distance we had to keep, Christians experienced the genuine unity that is always ours as the body of Christ. And that the resurrected life of Christ was revealed in our body for the whole world to see.
Daniel Harrell is editor in chief of Christianity Today. Follow him on Twitter @DanlHarrell.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.