The COVID-19, or coronavirus, has now been labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization as countries struggle to contain the spread of the virus. Bottom line, the coronavirus is now considered a global threat.

I cannot remember a time when a pandemic has brought so much attention to so many in such a short amount of time. But then again, I was born in the 20th century. I only know about the Black Plague or the diseases of smallpox, measles, typhus and cholera that Europeans inadvertently brought to the Native Americans who didn’t have a built-up immunity to these diseases (according to what I have read). I do, however, remember when HIV started and more recently, the H1N1 (swine flu) and the Ebola outbreak.

To be honest, I am still trying to wrap my mind around the coronavirus. Regardless of what you and I think about the response, we need to take precautions. I am urging all of our churches, pastors and laypeople to be wise and be educated on what it means to be prepared and to help others be prepared for COVID-19.

With so much attention and concern given to the coronavirus, we would be justified if we all went running for the hills. But I wonder, how does God want his Church to respond to this pandemic? After all, what does holiness have to do with the coronavirus? How is a Christian supposed to act in a time when airline flights, universities, restaurants and NBA and NCAA basketball games, just to name a few, are being cancelled or closed? To answer the question, holiness has to do with everything.

The essence of being holy, or sanctified, is to walk holy with God and with man (Hebrews 12:14). If what happens in our hearts, according to John Wesley, is perfect love in which we don’t consider our lives more important than our neighbors’ lives, the running we are called to do is to a broken humanity — to serve them with the same grace and compassion that Jesus had with those who had diseases with no known cure.

Dr. Jo Anne Lyon (General Superintendent Emerita) shared on Facebook post: “Historically since the third century when followers of Jesus’ in Rome were the primary care givers during pandemics, the Church has been the institution in which the culture finally leans on. In the 14th century, during the Black Plague, churches were turned into hospitals and in the 16th century, Martin Luther asked that Christians not leave the country, as many were, but to stay and take care of the sick. Even in America during the 1918 flu, circuit-riding preachers made their way on the prairies caring for the sick, etc. During Ebola, yes, feeding those quarantined.”

The essence of being filled with the Holy Spirit is seen in how we love — including laying down our lives for those around us. Historically, the Church has always stepped up to the plate; let’s not let this time be any different. It’s our turn now.

Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you and your church on how you can be the Church, a visible expression of the Resurrected Christ, so that the lost world can see that the coronavirus is no match for a Holy God and his holy people.

Dr. Devon Smith is district superintendent of the Tri-State District.