What were you doing this time last year? I was running a temperature and fighting a dry cough. That’s right I’d gone down with COVID-19. The result was that I was going to stay at home. I’d hoped initially that it was just a cold but through the day, it became clearer that it wasn’t. I phoned my wife to let her know and retreated upstairs for about two weeks.
It wasn’t pleasant but in many ways I got off lightly. I wasn’t hospitalised, I didn’t need artificial ventilation and to the best of my knowledge I’ve not suffered the long term effects of long-COVID. Indeed, we have been blessed as a family. Sarah seemed to stay COVID free and we have not suffered the bereavements others have. Further, whilst I know pastors who took many funerals as a result of COVID, I only took 3 funerals through the last 12 months and as far as we are aware only one of them seems to have been the direct consequence of the virus.
It would be tempting therefore to sit back and say “What was all the fuss about?” We’ve been affected in other ways. It has hit us socially, we’ve missed being able to see people who we would dearly have loved to have spent time with.
We were looking forward to some big family events including my parents’ Golden Wedding Anniversary and my mum’s 80th. A 90th birthday at church was cancelled and a friend’s wedding postponed. We are having to wait to see another friend’s newly arrived baby. And there is no doubt that work became awkward. Our church suffered heavily from the consequences of lockdown, the pandemic hit just at a point in the church’s lifecycle when we were most vulnerable and so the financial knockdown led to redundancies meaning that we were hit economically.
My point is not to say how hard it was for us, we are still a lot better off than many but my point is this. Many of us did not see the full consequences of the pandemic. There weren’t the half a million deaths we feared and the sickness was mainly suffered within the sanitized conditions of hospital wards. This was no Black Death with people called to bring out their dead and it was not the kind of post-apocalyptic zombie fest of The Last Ship or 28 Days later.
So, for a lot of us, the feeling has been that we suffered a lot of nuisance and cannot really see any gain from it. That was always going to be the problem. The initial potential death figures were regarded as fanciful and few grasped how genuinely serious things were. This ironically is seen not just in the reaction of those who underplay they number of cases and deaths but those who argue that the Government have the lives of 120,000 on their hands. The point is that without the measures taken it could have been between 130,000 and 380,000 more. It is the belief that we’ve been unnecessarily inconvenienced that is probably the greatest danger at the moment.
Personally, it brings back memories from 20 years ago. There were horror stories of another bug that was about to hit the planet causing untold chaos and potentially leading to many deaths. I’m referring to the so called Millennium Bug or Y2K problem. A bit of cost saving on coding over many years meant that lots of software would suddenly be hit when date fields reverted back to zero. The potential results would have been catastrophic. So companies invested money and time on patches, upgrades and new systems. The 01/01/2000 went without a hitch and instead of being saluted as heroes, those people who had worked hundreds of extra hours to make sure there wasn’t a problem weren’t given a weekly round of applause at 8pm instead they were mocked and derided, the whole thing was written off as a hoax.
The point is this. Just because we may not immediately be able to see the danger does not mean that action should not be taken. And, when danger is averted, that does not mean the warnings were unnecessary, it means they were effective. So, although I may not have agreed with every decision in the past year, I fully understand and support the overall decision to take drastic action to attempt to mitigate against the pandemic.
Too often as Christians, we don’t spot the coming danger. We think that people who challenge over this little bit of doctrine or those song lyrics are nit picking. We accuse those who dare to confront sin of being confrontational and unloving. We back away from the prospect of church discipline. Is it really necessary we ask? Yet when people in Corinth were tempted to play down the problem of sin, the apostle Paul rejected their complacency and insisted
“6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
As churches, we rightly acted quickly in compliance with guidance in order to protect our congregations and communities from a deadly, silent killer. How much more important is it then that we act in a timely fashion when our church families are threatened by two other serious and silent killers, false teaching and sinful practice?
 1 Corinthians 5:6-8