Learning from Covid: Why Christians Must Recover Their Courage

3 March 2022

3.7 MINS

During Covid, Christians were quick to obey the government, even when the government stepped beyond its God-appointed limits. Where was our courage? What do the Scriptures say about this? And what can we learn from courageous believers who have gone before us?

Christians are called to be salt and light wherever God puts us. In the post-Christian West, our challenge is to fulfil this calling in a culture that is quickly drifting away from its Christian moorings.

In recent articles, we have considered how the church is going in the face of this enormous challenge. When confronted by conscience issues and society’s definition of compassion during Covid, Christians could have shown much better leadership.

But how did we do when it came to courage? 

Fear has been the prevailing spirit of the last two years. As followers of Jesus, we’ve had the opportunity to walk in the opposite spirit.

This doesn’t mean acting recklessly. When I speak of courage, I don’t so much mean courage in the face of the virus — because your risk might be very different to mine. I’m talking about the courage to stand up for what we know is true and right.

A Cure Worse Than the Disease

We’ve now entered a very interesting stage in Western history when the instinct is to look for government help in most aspects of life. This has been building for some time, but Covid really brought it to the surface.

Of course, there’s a place for governments to protect the community when there is a serious threat to public health. But our leaders skipped straight from doing nothing to mandating everything. Rarely were we given the opportunity to exercise common sense and voluntary care for each other.

In the process, we learned to distrust, blame and dob on each other. Human rights were squashed and even forgotten. The cure was often worse than the disease.

We also showed how willing we are to live under indefinite emergency powers. Still today, our country — including every state and territory — is under a state of emergency, even though all of our leaders’ goals have been achieved!

You Can’t Please a Divided World

Instead of challenging the overreach and the fear, many Christians were quick to spiritualise it, saying, “We’ve got to lead by example. The world is watching”.

But which world was watching? Our world is split in two, on Covid and many other things.

If we live to please unbelievers who are very much committed to Covid panic, there are millions of other unbelievers, who’ve been suffering and marching in protests, who will see our Christian faith as cowardly and useless.

If we aim to please one half of a divided world we will inevitably upset the other half. The point is this: Jesus didn’t save us and send us into the world to curate our public image. He called us to be salt and light and a city on a hill (Matthew 5:13-16) — no matter what a divided world thinks.

A Place for Peaceful Resistance

Some of our culture’s greatest heroes knew this. Think of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church. The protesters at Tiananmen Square. Believers behind the Iron Curtain before the fall of Communism.

With the passing of time, we elevate these people and write biographies about them. But they were divisive characters. They practiced peaceful resistance. A lot of people hated them at the time — in some cases, the majority of Christians wrote them off as rabble rousers. But we thank God for them today.

The ink is not yet dry on the Covid story. Those with their bank accounts frozen in Canada, anti-mandate Americans being treated like domestic terrorists, Victorians who were subjected to beatings, tear gas and rubber bullets — they may yet be the heroes of the story. Maybe our great grandchildren will read about them in their public school textbooks.

Jesus Set Limits on Government

In Romans 13, God says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” That’s the rule. But there is an exception. God has appointed these rulers, we read, not as “a terror to good conduct, but to bad”. What if governments cross that line between good and bad? We can debate where that line is crossed — but it can be crossed.

Jesus said it himself: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Jesus set a limit on the authority of earthly government. You and I owe the government our obedience on most things. But if they demand from us what rightly belongs to God — our bodies, our conscience, our worship — we can and must resist.

If that was true under a tyrant like Caesar, how much more so in representative democracies? In the West, God has ordained governments “of, for and by the people”. It would be wrong for us to sit idly by if our elected leaders oppressed or inflicted suffering on others.

Courage Isn’t Selfish

Standing up isn’t selfish. Like the heroes we celebrate, it might cost us our reputation in the short term. But we do it to protect others from injustice. We do it for those who can’t defend themselves. We do it for the rights and freedoms of everyone — even those who are against us.

Please don’t hear me issuing some kind of call to arms. But for some of the challenges that may lie ahead beyond Covid, God’s church does have to start thinking about peaceful resistance. If Australia ever has an underground church, that’s exactly what we’ll be doing.

By God’s mercy, it will never come to that. But in every age, we need courage — and the resolve to obey our Lord whether it has mainstream approval or not.

Image by Oliver Cole (Unsplash).

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  1. Meredith 4 March 2022 at 12:42 am - Reply

    Thank you. It is so good to hear someone say it.

  2. Stephen Lewin 4 March 2022 at 11:26 am - Reply

    Thanks for another great encouraging post ..courage over great

  3. Lyn 4 March 2022 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    Great article Kurt. Thanks for highlighting the limits God sets on governments.

  4. Alaine Harrison 5 March 2022 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    Thank you for that article Kurt. I agree with you . At the protests at Parliament House ACT I have seen some Christians who have courage to follow their conscience. I talked to a Christians man who had a large cross with bible verses about Jesus . I asked him why he did it. He said God told him to do it. He later spoke on stage. A pastor who was at National day of Prayer and Fasting came to my church and was talking about the protesters. .He said maybe God will use what is happening there to bring people to him. I think it true the church has missed a great opportunity to show leadership through the Covid-19 pandemic. I am not the most courageous person but as Christian sometimes I am required to show courage.

  5. Paul Newell 6 March 2022 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    Thank you Kurt. The tyrants are in lock step worldwide which makes the situation more difficult. We must already be at the point of peaceful resistance which may go on for years. I came across a sermon delivered by Charles Spurgeon on May 9th 1858. The World Turned Upside Down. Quote. ‘ And have not his (Jesus) followers at all times been a peaceful generation? – save only and except where the liberty of their conscience was touched, and then they were not the ones to bow their knees to tyrants and kings, but with brave old Oliver (Cromwell) they did bind their kings in chains and their nobles in fetters of iron, as they will do again if their liberty ever should be infringed, so that they should not have the power to worship God as they ought.’ In context I think they put up with Charles 1st for about 14 years before taking action.

  6. Greg 7 March 2022 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    To cultivate deeper and closer-knit Christian communities is the path to survival for Christians in an increasingly hostile world according to Rod Dreher in the The Benedict Option. It would surely be useful also in the event of government overreach, as we now have it.

  7. Arthur Connor 16 March 2022 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    Hi Kurt. I normally appreciate your writing and point of view, but find myself not agreeing 100% with your perspectives on covid-19. I support in principle opposition to vaccine mandates, and I believe it was wrong of governments to negate individual consent in demanding covid-19 vaccination. I suggest that the right to individual consent should be the focus, rather than opposing the vaccines as such. In advocating for choice people should respect the right of others also to choose and not impinge on that right. You say correctly that each person’s risk in regard to covid-19 is different. In that regard, I should be allowed to manage my risk as an older person when I choose to be vaccinated. Having been through many medical procedures my bodily autonomy is not so important to me. What matters is that I talked with my doctor and read widely before I gave informed consent. I also continue to read to understand the circumstances in which the vaccines will do a good enough job for me. I know many have been hurt because of mandates, but it’s a time of distress and hurt for many for different reasons. Everyone needs to look to the Lord, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated. When I talk to vaccinated and unvaccinated alike the supreme challenge facing everyone is how are they with the Lord? Personally, in this time of harvest I don’t ask about a person’s vaccination status in any of my witness. Some may be interested in my status, or my views on vaccination. By upholding the right of informed choice I don’t provide any barriers to my witness. By being vaccinated myself, I have straight forward access to the elderly, the disabled and to children. Further, I don’t feel constrained by personal risk, to visit people ill with covid-19. I could spend a lot of time reflecting on how governments should have done things better and what all this means for our cherished freedoms. I could join the freedom rallies to try to rectify things. Others need to do that and thankfully there are Christians among them. By God’s grace people will get their jobs back at the very least. As for me, I will steward my days and focus on spreading the word and praying. To do that also requires faith, courage and compassion. God bless.

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