In the ancient world it was commonplace to regard sickness as a punishment or a curse. If you were sick you must have done something to deserve it or someone must have cursed you. People did not understand the pathology of different diseases so, with a superstitious mindset they blamed the person who was sick, or if that person didn’t seem to be a bad individual they blamed his parents, they blamed the gods, they blamed bad karma…whatever.

While we look on such ideas now as silly superstition, in some ways it’s not that far off. There are indeed many illnesses for which the person who is sick can be blamed. If you smoke four packs of cigarettes a day don’t be surprised if you get lung cancer. If you gorge on junk foods and get no exercise you’ll be prone to heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses associated with poor diet and obesity. If you guzzle booze you will destroy your liver. If you do drugs you will sizzle your brain.

This does not provide an answer, however, for a whole category of diseases that cannot be traced to an individual’s lifestyle. Some maladies can be attributed to the un natural stuff we do on a corporate level. This is more difficult to pin down. Are more kids showing signs of autism because of vaccinations? Does living near power lines increase your chances of getting cancer? Are estrogens in the water supply causing falling sperm count and cases of sexual confusion? Does aluminium in the water supply cause Alzheimers? What about all the artificial stuff in the food supply? Do the hormones in meat mess us up? A good example of corporate un-naturalness is global travel. If we didn’t zoom all over the world infectious diseases would not spread like this present virus. Are we committing a slow suicide of the human race through abortion, artificial contraception and euthanasia? Those who focus on the demographic winter believe so.

In the face of all kinds of illness, it is worth looking at the situation from a deeper and more symbolic level. This level of understanding is always present when the Lord Jesus confronts sickness in his healing ministry. The blind person is a symbol of the spiritual blindness that affects the whole human race. Leprosy–which deadens the nervous system and causes deformity and isolation symbolizes the deadened conscience and the deformity caused by sin and separation from God and the church. Paralysis and a withered arm symbolize the paralysis of the soul, enslaved by sin and unable to move without the gift of grace.

One cannot lessen or minimize the present virus outbreak by theologizing the whole thing, however the awareness of the illness can allow us to look more deeply into the meanings of life. A virus, like sin, is infectious and spreads without us being. very aware of it’s invisible existence. The virus can cause death and serious illness. It is therefore a memento mori a timely reminder of death. but for many it will cause worry and concern, but they will go on with life–giving their mortality little further thought.

With hard work, caution and God’s help we will pass through the crisis and come out the other side, but in the meantime let us pray for all afflicted, minister to those in need and allow the invisible disease to spark a reminder in our own hearts of our own mortality and the need to prepare in this life for the life that is to come.