Critical times call for bold measures.
Bill Gates will spend billions of dollars from his foundation to help find a vaccine for COVID-19. He will work with seven different makers of the most promising efforts by funding the construction of factories for them.
Gates acknowledges that billions of dollars will be wasted on vaccines that don’t pan out: “Even though we’ll end up picking at most two of them, we’re going to fund factories for all seven, just so we don’t waste time in serially saying which vaccine works and then building the factory.”
Selling the world’s largest statue
In other news, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, one of the largest church buildings in the world, will partner with Franklin Graham’s ministry, Samaritan’s Purse, to set up a field hospital under its nave. Tents expected to hold at least two hundred patients will be set up inside the cathedral by the end of the week.
The cathedral’s crypt will become a staging area for medical personnel. This is the first time the building will be used as a hospital.
The cathedral is known for its liberal theology and politics, but Graham said, “We all need to be working together and put our differences aside. We’re not there to talk about politics, we’re not there to talk about gay marriage, we’re there to save lives.”
Not all the news of bold measures is encouraging, however: scammers in India tried to sell the world’s largest statue for $4 billion, claiming the proceeds would be used to help the state government fund its fight against coronavirus. The “Statue of Unity” portraying one of the founding fathers of India is nearly twice the height of New York’s Statue of Liberty. Indian officials say cybercrimes in their country have risen 86 percent in the past four weeks.
We must serve Christ well to serve Caesar well
Jesus spent this Holy Tuesday teaching in the temple area and responding to his opponents. One of them asked him this trick question: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17). If Jesus says that it is not, the Roman soldiers standing guard will arrest him for insurrection. If he says that it is, the Jews who hate the Romans will reject him.
Either way, his enemies win.
So Jesus asks to see a Roman coin, then asks his opponents, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They reply, “Caesar’s.” Jesus responds with his now-famous injunction: “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (vv. 20–21). And “when they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away” (v. 22).
Jesus’ transforming principle, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” is foundational to Western civilization. It articulates a “two-spheres” worldview in which we are to serve both the state and the Lord. And it is vital to the principle of a free church and a free state.
But we should also note this fact: we must serve Christ well to serve Caesar well.
“When they saw the boldness of Peter and John”
In fearful times and circumstances, the key to boldness for Christians is experiencing the transformational power of Christ. As the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), we are to reflect his light (John 9:5).
In Acts 4 we find the apostles risking their lives to preach the gospel. When they were brought before the same authorities who arranged for Jesus’ execution and could do the same to them, Peter preached to them fearlessly.
As a result, “when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (v. 13). As the English Standard Version Study Bible notes, “‘Uneducated, common men’ does not mean that they were illiterate or unintelligent but rather that they had not gone through the advanced training of the rabbinic schools” as had the Sanhedrin members.
But it does mean, however, that the apostles’ source was not in themselves. They spoke not from academic training but from their personal intimacy with Jesus. As the text records, Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit” before he proclaimed the gospel so boldly (v. 8).
Human education and experience cannot substitute for what Jesus imparts to those who spend time with him. Some Christians are more like the Sanhedrin; others are more like these disciples.
“To risk is the safest decision we can make with God”
Today is World Health Day, an annual emphasis by the World Health Organization on the importance of healthcare providers. As we remember those who are risking their lives to treat coronavirus patients, let’s join them with the bold commitment to do all we can to love our neighbors in these days.
But remember: our love for our neighbor comes from the love we experience when we love our Lord.
Ed Stetzer is right: “To play it safe is the most risky decision we could make. To risk is the safest decision we can make with God. No matter the short-term implications, we must obey God with reckless abandon.” But to obey God fully, we must love him passionately.
How deeply would your Father say you love him today?