REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 73: India, Democracy and the Pandemic.
Many of us prayed for the world’s largest democracy on Sunday as they face the enormous battle against an avalanche of daily infections. With 300,000 new daily cases of covid-19 and a daily death toll in excess of 2,000 people, we can understand why their health system is being pushed beyond its limits. We can only watch and pray. Our lockdown in Perth took us by surprise, but is only a minor inconvenience in comparison to the plight of our fellows in the great nation of India.
Prayer for others is the great gift we can offer, since we are a kingdom of priests [1 Peter 2:4-10]. Though we feel helpless, the truth is that we are not, since we can intercede for others. Just as the Old Testament priests represented God to the people and the people to God, so we join our prayers with the 32.2 million believers and for India’s 1.4 billion inhabitants.
We pray for the viability of the health system and especially for the protection of the myriads of worn-out doctors, nurses, hospital orderlies and support staff. We ask God to be pleased to be merciful in holding back the increase of the virus and to give our nation, along with others, big and generous hearts in the sharing of resources, including vaccinations.
Perhaps our most important prayers are for the grace of God to shine through those who know and love the Lord Jesus in their preparedness to minister to their non-Christian neighbours and friends irrespective of their social caste or creed. Coupled with this prayer, and in line with our convictions that God desires not the death of sinners [Ezekiel 18:23] and that the Holy Spirit must open hearts if we are to be saved [John 3:3-5, 16:5-11], we ask God to use this crisis to draw people to Himself in repentance and trust. This kind of prayer is not only necessary, but it also keeps us from forgetting that to die without Christ is a fate far worse than this or any other pandemic. Such prayer is entirely consistent with our Saviour’s example [Luke 13:1-5] and declared purpose in coming amongst us [Luke 15:10, 1 Tim 1:15].
Democratic societies depend on a personal commitment to the good of others in order to flourish. Indian scholar and servant of India’s poor, Dr Vishal Mangalwadi has given us a wonderful apologetic for democracy being grounded in the Bible rather than Greek philosophy in his book, The Book That Made Your World –How the Bible created the soil of western civilization [Thomas Nelson 2011]. Understanding this will drive us to gratitude to God, to our knees since it is too easy to bow to the popular rhetoric that the Bible reflects a God who is not good, and to a new desire to make known its truths as the key to democratic flourishing through personal sacrifice. He testifies: Bible translators and missionaries did not merely give me my mother tongue, Hindi. Every living literary language in India is a testimony to their labour [p.169] and then shows how this has been demonstrated in the academy. Here is another aspect of the pandemic that we ought to thank God for: the scientific enterprise that was spawned by the Bible which led to the scientific research and methods that are benefiting so many during the pandemic, and secondly, that all of us [and especially those in crowded India], might fulfil our democratic responsibility to do all we can, and are asked to do, by those we elected, and those whom they have appointed as advisors, to minimise the spread and speed the elimination of, or at least bring under control, the covid-19 virus.
The priesthood of all believers has itself been a force for good. By eliminating a special caste of people who had superior access to God, the democratisation of all people before God whom we must access through Jesus, has followed. It follows that we must respect and serve others with equal energy, sacrifice and impartial love. Far from causing us to ignore God out of pride and an arrogant trust in the abilities and status given us by God, we are humbled and encouraged by our privileged position as intercessors and servants [Rom 13:1-7, Gal 6:9-10, 1 Tim 2:1-8].
Peter Brain 27th April, 2021