The confinement in our homes is forcing millions to stop abruptly, cancel all our plans, and take time to look in the mirror.
If you have ever been at a sporting event at the beginning of a comeback, you will know the power of hope to transform a situation and spread rapidly through a group of people.
There are some things that spread. That is the problem faced by our world in this moment as coronavirus infects people across the planet and causes thousands to become ill and tragically some to die.
The conversation in coffee shops, colleges, corner shops and the corridors of power is how to stop it spreading – because powerful things spread. And they do so most potently and quickly through networks of relational connection.
2014 saw an outbreak of the Ebola virus that tragically killed many people, especially in West Africa. The BBC reported the potential threat to the UK at the time and stated that “The Department of Health said a man had been tested for Ebola in Birmingham but tests for the virus had proved negative”. When a friend sent me the article, I immediately knew this, because the man in question was me.
I had been abroad and arrived home with the worst ‘man-flu’ I had ever experienced. Upon mentioning to the doctor that I had been with colleagues from Sierra Leone I was immediately quarantined, wearing a mask, with a biohazard symbol on my hospital door feeling like the star of an apocalyptic disaster movie. I was contained by people who know the power of contagiousness.
Viruses are contagious. They are spread through human contact, especially when you don’t wash your hands. Panic is contagious. Fear and hysteria can spread through a crowd at an alarming rate. But so is hope. If you have ever been at a sporting event at the beginning of a comeback or been in a crowd when good news bursts through, you will know the power of hope to transform a situation and spread rapidly through a group of people.
As Christians, we have in our heart and in our hands the most contagious message of hope the world has ever known. The good news of Jesus spreads quickest and most effectively from contagious Christians to the people they are closest to.
The times are concerning for the world amidst the uncertainty of all that the coronavirus is bringing. But the times are also extremely exciting for the gospel. The rapid spread of illness shows how connected we are as a society. We are perhaps better defined as ‘human relatings’ rather than human beings, such is our desire to be in relationship. We have more connections than ever before. And Talking Jesus research revealed in 2015 that the most significant person in influencing someone becoming a Christian is a friend or family member.
The good news of Jesus has spread relentlessly through relationship ever since the Mary returned from the tomb with the astonishing news that “He is risen”. This transformational message has reached billions over the centuries and it is spreading faster than any virus on planet earth today. No amount of handwashing, wearing of facemasks, governmental control or societal structure can stop it. The beautiful, hope-filled, game-changing message of Jesus lives on and in our times will grow faster than at any other time in history
The question is, how contagious are we? The phenomenon of virality reminds me that hope spreads fast through the most hopeful, connected people. In the spreading of the good news of Jesus, we all have a part to play. How contagious are you? How are you cultivating hope in your own heart so that others might see it and want to know more about its source? How intentional are you about your own connections in praying for your friends who don’t yet know Jesus?
Next week my first book, Story Bearer, is released. It is about stories and relationships. After you read it, my prayer is that you are more contagious as a bearer of the most powerful story in the universe and that you have greater confidence in living and sharing your own story about the greatest hope in the universe. I would love you to take a look and let me know what you think.
Let’s pray for the end of coronavirus and for those suffering with it. Let’s be a non-anxious presence and show the difference Jesus makes in the face of crisis to those around us (our guidance on how to respond to coronavirus can be found here). But let’s also be inspired by these events to be the most contagious we can be with the hope that brings life to the world.
Phil Knox, head of mission to young adults at the Evangelical Alliance United Kingdom (EAUK). This article was first published on the EAUK website.
PS. If you were interested, in 2014, after extensive tests, my diagnosis was just a really bad case of ‘man-flu’.