You know things are serious when a new word gets a definition. Now coronaphobia has one.
Coronaphobia (noun) – The fear of catching Covid-19, expressed by wearing a face mask in public, or simply avoiding public places, public events and public transport.
Our government is finding problems with manipulation by fear. It scared people into lockdown compliance. Now Boris wants to fire up the economy but opinion polls suggest most are too scared to leave lockdown.
The government wants semi-fear to keep up social distancing. Stop being very scared but keep being a little bit scared! Parents: stop being scared about your children – you can send them back to school soon. Healthy over-70s: be scared enough to keep up social distancing, but avoid stressful anxiety. People with underlying health conditions: keep being very scared and stay in!
We don’t want blindly to follow the government’s latest advice. We ask, is my level of coronaphobia wise or foolish?
“I can measure the risk”
Stuck in lockdown, we are now a nation of armchair risk forecasters. Our scientists speak of the R number of the virus: its reproduction rate or the average number of people infected by a Covid-19 sufferer. But they’re only estimating. Daily press briefings show how uncertain they are.
We judge by those around us: who out of our friends and neighbours has had it? How many? How serious?
We don’t just trust ourselves with the risk of whether Covid-19 will take us to the grave, but with what happens next. “If there is a God,” many reason, “he’ll let me into heaven, because I’m a good person.” But what if his standard is higher than ours? The Bible suggests we are wise to consider this:
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10)
Knowing that God is “the Holy One”, perfect in every way, should make us fear that, as imperfect people, we won’t go automatically to heaven.
“The risk is worth it”
Many of us are fed up of lockdown. Let’s get out and about, we think, it’s worth the risk. I’d rather be able to see friends and family, to eat out rather than cook for myself all the time, to get my hair cut. Pleasure now is worth the risk of pain later.
People often view the prospect of meeting God like that. There’s a nagging knowledge that some of the things we do are wrong. But we want to do them! They’re fun. We hope that the Holy One might let us off. We carry on our lives as we want and take the risk with judgement: is that wise?
“Worry is for the weak”
Perhaps we know those who have taken coronaphobia a bit far. The hand-sanitiser stockpilers. The obsessive mask wearers. Those not even in a high risk group who refuse to leave home. We think they’re a bit foolish; that we’re stronger than them.
But it’s only weak to worry if you are wrong to worry. It’s wise to worry about walking across a busy motorway. It’s wise to worry about what will happen when we meet our judge. That’s why the Bible states that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”
The situation is clear: I cannot safely stand before God on my record. My thoughts are selfish and proud; my words can be unkind and untruthful; my actions show that I don’t love my neighbour as myself. I’m not in a fit state to enter the Holy One’s heaven.
Happily though, the fear of the LORD is not the end of wisdom. Being concerned about standing before God as our judge points us to our need of God as our Saviour. Because Jesus Christ died as a substitute for sinners, we are offered forgiveness – to stand before God on the basis of his perfect record, not our flawed one.
The ultimate reason for coronaphobia is if we are not ready, were the worst to happen to us. But there is no need to have that fear. Jesus freely offers forgiveness to all who turn from their own way to trust in him. By knowing Jesus as our Saviour we can have peace of conscience, knowing that through him we have free entrance to the Holy One’s heaven.
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