Foreword: "For the kingdom of God, universal acceptance is the foundation of theology." (Jürgen Moltmann)
Since the Reformation, an important contribution to theology has been that Christ is a king, a priest and a prophet, and the three positions are integrated in one person, Jesus. Proposed by Bible-promoting people such as Calvin, that contribution is universally accepted in the Christian faith. Christians are the disciples of Christ, so they should set their minds on emulating the Lord Jesus Christ. Students cannot be higher than their masters. What the Lord does is a model for our generation, and the three positions' duties of the Lord are also to be carried out by His disciples. How do we carry them out? Let's take the example of the current epidemic.
I. The sinful self: the service of a king
"Christians are masters of all who are completely free and not beholden to anyone; Christians are fully obedient servants of all and beholden to everyone." (Martin Luther)
In the cultural tradition of such national disasters, natural disasters, or plagues, a king would mostly issue the "call of repentance", which is a kind of order or instruction of introspection or review of one's own fault. Zhou Chengwang (an ancient Chinese king), following the rebellious chaos led by his two generals, reflected on the situation and criticized himself by writing a lamentation: "I was not directly involved but I added to the scourge!". Also, Qin Mugong (one of the kings of the Qin State during the Warring States era), after the failure of a highly costly expedition battle, reflected: "My State has fallen into danger all by one person's fault, that is my own!". The first time in history that the "call of repentance" became official was when it was stipulated by Han Wendi (an ancient king). Until Yuan Shikai in 1916, there were a total of 89 kings who had cases of 'repentance', over a time span of 2,085 years, with an occurrence of about once every eight years. This is undoubtedly good in accordance with God's will and allows the nation to last for long.
Christians should have both the duties of a king and the teachings of being a servant king. It is reasonable to "repent" first and then tell the public to do the same, instead of standing on a moral high ground to blame others.
There are Christians who may say "If the outbreak was not caused by me and it is not my responsibility to manage the prevention, then why should I feel guilty? Why should I repent?". Those who have such ideas really do not know a Christian's position as a king, that they are to bear such a responsibility from the onset. What is the responsibility? In the Old Testament, many verses emphasize that God's people should be quick to show humility, repentance, and turn to God. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ took the sins of the world upon himself. Since even historical kings knew to repent and bear responsibility, how much more should God's blessed kingly heirs repent to show the Way. So let's start from the reflection of how we have sinned against God and others. And this introspection is not only that of an individual, but also that of a group - the Church is face its responsibility and issue a "call of repentance."
It is time to turn back to God, a time to look deep into yourself; a sincere and humble turning back to God! To Christians and the Church, there are at least three big turns:
First, from the superficial gospel, and the world's busy and floating work, to the inner room's constant and deep prayer. From biblical revelation, it is easy to see that during great plagues, only King David and the priest Aaron offered humble and sincere sacrifice and prayer to stop God's wrath.
Second, from the self-satisfaction derived from country club-style fellowship and religious ceremonies, to the will, mind and vision of the kingdom of God - always focus on the Creator, faith as an anchor to a stable life, and feel the Savior's love. Also be like King David; willing to serve the people of our time, not only vigorously saving souls, but also paying attention to ecology, life, and contributing to public welfare, environmental protection and so on.
Third, from various baseless, fragmented teachings and the tendency to cling to the customs of our entourage, to humbly learn from fellow the brothers and churches, opening up the dialogue between different religions and cultures in universal grace, and being able to build with one heart, thereby enabling effective transmission of the gospel to present day.
Only through humble introspection in the light of the Holy Spirit can we see God's actions and know how to participate in the face of the epidemic; with the right mentality of service, prayer, seeking cooperation with the government, and uniting the actions of all groups.
II. Intercessory prayer: the service of a priest
"Prayer is asking for the benefit of others in front of God." (Augustine)
In that famous saying about prayer, Augustine's words have been ignored for a long time, but it is a concise and true statement of the essence of priestly prayers. As the mediator between God and men, a priest is trained on how to sacrifice, atone, reconcile, satisfactorily fulfill God's will, and achieve harmony...all these comprise "for the benefit of others". The Bible teaches that praying for the king, and praying for the people, are all for their benefits, and the greatest benefit is to return to the eternal Lord.
Therefore, praying for the outbreak is by no means a simple search for the Lord's healing; it also involves, stopping the plague, which is for the better. If the goal of praying is as simple as searching for healing, then it will be as ineffective as the joint prayer conference (involving various religions and groups) held after 9/11. Afterall, even unbelievers and atheists also hold such prayer sessions, which are not always pleasing to God. The greatness of Biblical revelation lies in the world of sin, the complete salvation in Jesus Christ, and the eternal hope of the kingdom of God. Therefore, as a priestly Christian, we must first repent, deeply introspect ourselves, admit our guilt, and cleanse ourselves. The Lord will not listen to any prayer from a heart that is still full of sin.
Learn deeply about the two chapter nines prayers (Daniel Chapter 9 and Ezra Chapter 9)
1. As if you were a sinner: the sins of others, your ancestors and your leaders, are also my sins, our sins; we have sinned as one and hereby plead on behalf of our community and the place where we leave.
2. Recognize that sinning is the abandonment of the everlasting God, disobedience of His orders, and provocation of His wrath.
3. For God's glorious name and according to His great benevolence, seek the Lord's faithfulness and mercy. In particular, ask the Lord for mercy to look after the medical staff and patients; earnestly plead on their behalf with compassion and pity.
4. Feel God's will or wait quietly for the day of disaster to arrive, when the flood retreats, or act effectively under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In Moses' five books, God repeatedly instructed the priests to prepare the altar, to ensure that the people can sacrifice at any time: "From night to dawn, the fire on the altar must burn all the time"; Jesus repeatedly reminded his disciples to pray, lest they fall into temptation. Thus, in the face of the outbreak, not only should individuals offer their constant prayers, but the church should also always lead the people in public prayer.
III. Appeal: the service of a prophet
"The theology of the Kingdom of God must be a universally accepted theology: it participates in the public affairs of society, it is an open, critical, and prophetic warning of God; it is an open, critical, and prophetic hope of God." (Jürgen Moltmann)
A priestly prayer is not just a cure for headache whenever there is a headache, a remedy for today's outbreak, or a calming force for tomorrow's turmoil; but it is often humbly coming forth to listen to God's Word. When you hear God's words and speak it up boldly, you are being a prophet. A prophet is also known as a foreseer, God's servant. A prophet's prophetic perspective conveys the historical view and values in God's eyes and is simply how God sees and guides what He sees in the present.
In the midst of an outbreak, are there God's grace and righteousness? There has never been a quiet Spring Festival and usually it is difficult to get a holiday extension; the government emphasizes and focuses on powerful action. So, is the unexpected holiday extension not grace in itself? All God's creations often need some rest every now and then. If men refuse to rest, God has his own way of ensuring it. Thank God for giving the high-speed train an emergency brake signal to avoid damage. It is an alarm for money seekers. Thanks to the Lord for the days, festivals and seasons set for the world, allowing for a constant return to rhythm of nature; it is wonderful indeed! Christians are even more grateful to the Lord for using this extraordinary way to give us a pause in our busy lifestyles, stopping all kinds of workmanship and all kinds of entanglements. Let's go into the inner room and face God, reflect on the energy of His creation and the principles of life as designed by God. Let us quietly comb, digest, absorb, and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, so that the knowledge in the mind can be transformed into strength for the heart and joy for the hands.
What's more, God said to Abraham, for the sake of these ten righteous people, I will not destroy the city. I believe that because the gospel has reached China, the presence of more than ten righteous people allows us to have peace and hope. And in such a deeper closeness with the Lord, we are sorry and regret that we have neglected our great salvation and forgotten our vigilance and triple duty: in the face of this epidemic, we are supposed to count on God's grace and also ask for His righteousness. God does things with two hands, one hand rescues, one hand punishes. The Bible has no fewer appearances of 'punish' than "grace". But there seems to be selective attention. Newspapers should be the extenuation of God's righteousness, the law of the world, and grace as the law above nature. If in times of retribution you only ask for grace but refuse to be disciplined, then your belief lies in your own idols, not in God.
Greed, promiscuity, intemperance, pride, indulgence in physical pleasures, destruction of ecology, and predatory development ... Are those not the factors in relation to this outbreak that need repentance and introspection? The violation of the habitat/host (animal or plant) of a virus can lead to damage to the human community. Loopholes in a society can allow for the rapid spread of an infection, easily turning an outbreak into a destructive epidemic for the whole society. The Israelis once failed to observe the Sabbath and will not allow the land to have a Sabbath, so a prophet announced that God will allow the Israelites to be captured into exile by gentiles. The land left desolate due to displacement of its previous occupants (Israelites) will then have its deserved rest. This time around, the whole country is affected, with Christians sharing the burden or blessing, depending on how we see God's hand at work.
Oh Lord who does countless wonderful and new things, we ask you to teach us how to break through all kinds of limitations, and that you reveal your mind to both the church and the society. Please guide us on how to build a mountain city with respect to life, ecology, culture, economy, public welfare and other aspects! Please do your wonders among us so that your achievements will be revealed in this land. The glory of victory is all yours.
- Translated by Charlie Li