Reflection #1 – Death of a Hero

During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.

You can listen to his first reflection here. Or, read the transcript below.

Death of a Hero

On December 30, several weeks into a mysterious disease outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan, a little-known ophthalmologist named Dr. Li Wenliang, chatted online with fellow doctors. He wrote:

A new coronavirus infection has been confirmed and its type is being identified. Inform all family and relatives to be on guard.

Dr. Li Wenliang

As Dr. Wenliang saw more of these SARS-like infections, he continued to sound the alarm. But local authorities downplayed the outbreak and its risk to the public. They accused him of telling lies and reprimanded him for severely disturbing the social order. They pressed him to sign a gag order.

After signing the order, Li could not keep silent. He shared his concerns online and spoke with journalists in the midst of a political system that does not tolerate dissent. He warned his fellow medical staff to wear protective gear. He kept urging the authorities to warn the public against this severe outbreak.

Finally, the authorities had to recognize that Dr. Wenliang had uncovered a coronavirus from the same deadly family as SARS. He had won the battle to inform the public and saved many lives by sounding the alarm.

But Li did not fare so well himself. While treating an infected patient for glaucoma, he contracted COVID-19 from the coronavirus. He was hospitalized on January 12 for coughing and fever. As his condition deteriorated, he was moved to the Intensive Care Unit at Wuhan Central Hospital where he died on February 7. He was 34 years old.  He is survived by a son, and by his wife who is pregnant with their second child. [Hillary Leung, ‘An Eternal Hero,’ Time, Feb. 7, 2020]

After his death, many in China celebrated the humble doctor as “an eternal hero” and continue to honour his sacrifice.

As I read Dr. Wenliang’s story I was moved to give thanks for his courageous concern for his community. He was willing to risk rejection and infection to save others. I do not know whether he was a Christian, but his story is an inspiration for me in at least two ways.

First, it reminds me of the greatest Hero of all, our Lord Jesus Christ, who fought for His people all the way to death. When His people faced the ultimate sin-virus and death-disease, He sacrificed His life to save us. He lay down His life for the sheep. His commitment to our eternal well-being was so great that He was willing to suffer condemnation, rejection, and persecution for our salvation.

While Li could not conquer the coronavirus through his death, Jesus could conquer the sin-virus – and every other virus! – through His death on the cross, and He did! After His death on Good Friday, He rose again on Sunday morning in new life to share His victory with all who believe in Him. Everyone who believes in Jesus has victory over sin, disease and death. Yes, we will die. Maybe even from COVID-19. Yet we shall live. Jesus will take our souls to heaven and raise our bodies from the grave on the last day. In Him, we are totally secure.

The second lesson for me from Dr. Wengliang’s story is the importance of risking our lives for our neighbour’s good. The knowledge that something dangerous had arisen propelled him to inform and warn and work to save the lives of others. He could not remain silent even when the authorities tried to gag him.

How much more should we whose lives were saved by Jesus be willing to offer our lives to rescue others for Jesus’ sake? This includes helping to slow the spread of the virus. It also includes our willingness to step out to help those who are hurt by the virus. And what about sacrificing our lives for the Lord’s sake every day for our wives, husbands, children, clients, co-workers, employees and employers? Such love is the Christian’s everyday life.

Above all, true love for our neighbour calls the followers of Jesus to warn the world of the deadliest virus of all – our sin – and the coming judgment, and also to proclaim the Good News of the greatest Hero of all – Jesus saves!