This is our seventh post in the series and the third in answer to the question of what Christians ought to DO in light of the coronavirus. In the first (DO post), we echoed the bible’s call to hope and not fear. In the second we tried to help you see the need to light up the world with love. In this one we want to show you the need to strike a balance between being wise and taking risks.
Balancing Wisdom and Risk
My brother-in-law once had this t-shirt.
For the most part that’s just another way of saying that honoring God means balancing biblical wisdom and gospel risk. That is, we need to do our best to live in the world as it truly is while valuing the name of Jesus more than life itself. Sometimes finding and living in that balance is easy and sometimes it is hard. For instance, what if your neighbor was sick with the coronavirus and needed help. There’s a type of wisdom that would have you keep your distance, but a type of gospel risk that would have you run over there. What should you do? What’s the proper balance? Let’s briefly consider each charge and then a few ways we might put them together in practice.
I think the best definition of wisdom is something like–knowing how to honor God in any given situation. God charges His people to seek this kind of wisdom.
Proverbs 4:7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.
And yet, God also tells us that He alone can give wisdom.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
In simplest terms, on a practical level, gaining this kind of wisdom from God involves two steps. First, we need God’s help to understand the world as it is, and then we need God’s help to understand what God would have us do about it.
Gaining an understanding of the world as it truly is requires God’s help because God alone truly understands the world as it is. Some aspects of the world are unchanging and revealed in the bible. For instance, the world is under a curse (Genesis 3), people are sinful by nature (Romans 3:23), and the devil is constantly prowling around seeking people to devour (1 Peter 5:8). These things are always true of the world and, therefore, taking them into account is always a part of walking in wisdom. Some things, however, are changing and we need God’s help to understand them in a different way. The exact nature of this virus, for instance, requires a kind of understanding that few seem to possess today, and yet understanding it is an important part in knowing how to rightly respond to it. And that leads us to the second step in gaining wisdom.
As I mentioned above, knowing how things are is not enough. Wisdom also entails knowing what God would have us do about those things. Again, biblical wisdom is such that some aspects of our response to the virus will remain the same regardless of the nature of the virus. For instance, we are called to love our neighbors and hope in Christ no matter what (as we tried to show in the last two posts). And yet wisdom also calls us to respond in unique ways given the specific nature of the disease. If the virus is in reality nothing more than the common flu, then God’s wisdom might have us respond one way. But if it is in reality more on par with the Ebola virus, then God’s wisdom might have us respond at least somewhat differently. If the main issue is contracting it ourselves, biblical wisdom calls for one thing and if the main issue is infecting others, then biblical wisdom calls for something else.
So what are we to do? How are we to find a right balance? The answer, I believe, begins with the fact that God’s word repeatedly calls God’s people to be willing to lay our lives down for the sake of the gospel.
Philippians 1:21-23 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
Gospel risk, then, is one of the unchanging responses God calls his people to regardless of our circumstances. That is, in reality there really is no tension between biblical wisdom and gospel risk; for gospel risk (properly understood) is always wise. Our aim must be to make Christ known, whether in our sickness or in our health; in our life or in our death. The trick for us, and the heart of the wisdom we need, is in knowing exactly what gospel risk entails. Once we know it we eagerly “risk” walking in it even if it leads to our suffering, our mocking, our being fined or imprisoned, or even our death.
Putting it All into Practice
- Take in your bible more than you take in everything else combined.
- Listen to this brief interview on discerning risk.
- Try to discern where you get your news from and whether it’s true. Ask yourself questions: Is this true, or what I hope to be true? Am I reading this because I already agree with it? Does this position fit with other perspectives across different mediums? What credentials does the reporter have (medical expert, reporter, celebrity)?
- Work out an actual scenario. Would I be willing to risk infection if…Would this bring glory to God even if it costs me…
- Pray for wisdom.
- Ask others for help to discern and brainstorm practical ways to love those around you. “Is this wise? Is this risk necessary? Am I being too cautious? Would Jesus’ glory be more clearly seen if I ___ or ___?”