Hope Beyond a Vaccine


Remember that Christian purpose has always been rooted in the not yet.

Surveying the calamitous landscape wrought by the tiny coronavirus, Tom Frieden, the former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conceded a grim reality: “This is here to stay, in all likelihood, until we have a vaccine, and a vaccine could be a year or two away.” And that’s the optimistic scenario. Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme, described the possibility of developing a reliable vaccine anytime soon as “a moon shot.”

This does not bode well, as I badly need a haircut.

It does not bode well for my barber either, one of the millions of people now out of work. Aside from the moon shot, or viable treatment options, the only shot at returning to some semblance of normal requires corralling our way to herd immunity. The risk is well rehearsed: viral exposure, widespread contagion, infection, disease, and more death. By the time we arrive, businesses will have been decimated and churches shuttered. Millions more jobs will have evaporated, poverty and indebtedness will have soared. Emotional devastation litters the route: depression, brokenness, terror, and grief. Some say it feels like the end of the world.

For Christians, the end of the world is the end of all hope because, for Christians, hope ends with its fulfillment. Jesus returns in glory to make all things new (Rev. 21:5)—so much so that the word hope never even appears in Revelation. Biblical hope is not especially optimistic but rather is the fruit of suffering, perseverance, and character (Rom. 5:3–4). Author Marilynne Robinson describes biblical hope as “constantly and intensely vulnerable.” G.K. Chesterton added, “It is only when …

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