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  • Writer's picturemattlillicrap

A Covid Salvation Story

Just over a week ago Boris Johnson addressed the UK, outlining a tentative 'roadmap' out of lockdown.

If nothing else it certainly kept the writers of opinion pieces in business for the following week!

There’s been a lot of talk about his clarity or lack of it, which I’m not going to comment on, except to say that I did notice something very clear:

“We are shining the light of science on this virus, and we will defeat this devilish disease.”

That’s quite the statement. The UK government is by no means unique in the war-like language which has been employed to describe ‘the battle against Coronavirus.’ It’s worth noticing what’s going on there, though.

There is a lot of value in language like that. It helps us to take the threat seriously, and it also pulls us together. We are told of an enemy against which we are all united, a fight in which we are all playing our part. Some of us are on the front-line—healthcare workers and other key workers are the new soldiers in this war—but all of us are engaged in the fight.

But there’s something in there to which we should pay very careful attention. As soon as we speak of battles, enemies and victory, we are evoking a salvation story. There is an enemy threatening, a need for salvation, and therefore there is a saviour somewhere.

Describing Covid-19 as a ‘devilish disease’ raises force of that language even further. This is something we desperately need to be saved from. Where will that salvation come from?

Boris’ answer: the light of science.

It’s an intriguing answer isn’t it? On one hand we want to affirm it. In his mercy and grace God has given us scientific epidemiology, medicine etc. to counter the spread of Covid, and perhaps we are seeing some progress on that front.

But we should take care here too. Why is Covid-19 a ‘devilish disease’? The answer is found in the grim death-rate statistics which we hear each day. It’s a devilish disease because, tragically, thousands of people are losing their lives to it.

But that also means that coronavirus is actually not the real enemy here is it? Rather, it’s simply another mask which death has assumed. The real threat of the pandemic is not something new, but something as old as Genesis 3:19; “for dust you are and to dust you will return.” That fact hasn’t changed in 2020. It has just become more obvious for more of us.

So the question we need to ask is, will the light of science, or our corporate human unity, or the wonderful compassion and bravery of NHS workers, or anything else really win victory?

To which the answer, of course, is ‘against death? No.’

But we have a far better hope which cries ‘where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting?’


Onwards to glory, through that salvation!

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