After listening to the news these days you may be inclined to become antisocial and stay home. Between the impressive flu season locally and the fear-instilling coronavirus spreading abroad, there are lots of reasons to be extra careful these days. Experts recommend washing hands often, not touching the face, and avoiding large gatherings of people, particularly if you have a compromised immune system or are otherwise at greater risk.
I’m no expert on contagious diseases, but I have had an interest in them, especially since I used to travel internationally a lot. (I have positive memories of flying to China in 2003 in the middle of the SARS outbreak. I could stretch out on as many seats as I wished, as the plane was nearly empty!) If a disease is extremely contagious, and each carrier infects a certain number, the infection can spread rapidly through communities and entire populations. Because viruses are harder to treat, and often need to just run their course, such viral outbreaks can be debilitating if not devastating.
But these days, believe it or not, the phrase “going viral” is more of a positive idea than a negative one. Everyone wants their YouTube clip, or social media post, or music to “go viral.” What this means is that instead of becoming well-known due to paid advertising or some sort of a promotional or broadcasting push, your creation is rapidly circulated by people personally sharing it with others, similar to the way humans share viruses!
Viral sharing is incredibly powerful. Let’s illustrate it with the doubling penny: If you start with one penny and double your balance every day, on day 30 you will have $5,368,709.12!
The same math works with your video or post going viral. Let’s suppose one person sees it and shares it with another. The next day that one and the new one each share it with an additional person. The next day all four share it, the next day all eight, etc. On Day 30 more than 5 million people will have seen your creation. If each shares with two instead of just one, just once a day, then sometime on Day 26 all 7 billion people on the planet will have seen it. That’s what we call “going viral.”
The early Christian church didn’t have Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. It didn’t have telephones or email, radio or TV. But within the span of one generation, the news about the resurrected Savior had spread to “every creature under heaven,” according to the apostle Paul (Colossians 1:23). How in the world did that happen?
The Gospel went to the world because it went “viral.” Those “infected” by it became carriers, and contagious they were! They talked about Jesus. Their lives had been changed by Jesus. They were different men and women, boys and girls, than they had been before they met Jesus. They wouldn’t be quiet about Jesus even when threatened. “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard,” Peter said (Acts 4:20). One person told another, and that person shared with a couple more, and even though not all accepted him as their Savior, in the course of a few short decades everyone on Earth had heard of Jesus, and his amazing love and grace and power to save.
The story of Jesus isn’t like just another song or video or social media post. The Gospel not only changes lives for the better now, it brings life to the receiver for all eternity. Sharing Jesus isn’t about a fleeting “lol” or counting the instinctive “like” clicks. Hearing about Jesus may be life or death to someone in this generation — someone with whom you may be best positioned to share the good news.
Have you caught the bug? Are you really contagious?
Chester Clark III is pastor at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dalton. Contact him at email@example.com. His column appears on the third Friday of the month.