Hi there. You may be wondering why I've taken so long to write a post on my thoughts surrounding the current times we find ourselves in. Well, to be honest, I haven't had much to say. Sure, I of course have my own opinions about everything, but I haven't had anything specific that I felt needed said. However, recent events have stirred some things inside of me that I feel need to be said regarding the Church and its response to Covid-19.
The Beginning & Middle
Part of why I haven't had anything to say is that from the beginning I felt that the Church was doing a pretty good job. I feel that I am called to address issues I see in the Church and bring correction when necessary. However, it's not my place to lead in initial decision making. In the beginning, the Church did great in moving operations to online and loving people who were stuck in their home from afar. Churches also did a wonderful job at providing food and other necessities to those in need during this crisis.
A few Churches were reluctant to close early on, possibly because they didn't see as large of a threat or simply couldn't operate online as easily as other congregations were able to. It's my belief that everything should have been shut down earlier than it was to prevent spread. However, I cannot fault those who were hesitant in the face of the unknown.
We have now entered the realm of the known. Because of that, I do find fault with churches who refuse to respect the law of the land, the virus, and the health of people and choose to reopen too early.
Comply or Resist
Should churches follow government mandates and guidelines regarding gatherings? Or should churches resist those guidelines for the sake of gathering as one for the sake of the Gospel and loving God's people? We should do whatever we must for the sake of the Church, right?
Peter has a different opinion:
'Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.' (ESV)
1 Peter 2:13-17
So does Paul:
'Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment... Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.' (ESV)
(For Full Context: Romans 13:1-7)
Sounds pretty clear to me. Disobeying the instruction of the government means disobeying God, and Paul says to get ready for His wrath.
"That can't be totally true. What about places where it is illegal to be a Christian? What then? Obviously God would want Christians to go against the law and meet in His name."
Right, there are some exceptions. Here's Peter again where he defied the laws of the government:
'And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.' (ESV)
When the government directly defies God then, yes, absolutely we must resist and follow God above government.
When the government says to stay home and not gather for a period of time for the sake of the health of millions of people, Christians must be the first to obey and set an example for the Glory of God. Anything else incurs God's wrath. We do not need to be face-to-face to further God's kingdom. Therefore, is it so hard to sit at home and love people from afar that you'd rather make God mad?
The Virus and Math
When I first wrote this section it contained an explanation of where I believe math is being done incorrectly, leading to misinformation in the lethality of the virus. I sat and prayed on the article for a day and realized that the numbers are possibly the largest source of confusion, deception, and general misinformation surrounding the virus. It is based on these widely varying numbers that decisions and opinions are formed. A person's thoughts on the numbers are shaping their entire outlook.
I cannot claim to know the truth of what the numbers really are, and I feel that any speculation would cause division and take away from my points. So, I decided to cut them out and make my case without them as I believe that the exact numbers are ultimately irrelevant.
My case in regards to the physical health and safety surrounding the virus is simply this: more people are dying than normal, and if you aren't doing your part to prevent the spread of the virus, you are aiding in the death and suffering of millions of people.
It's hard, it's dark, but I have to call it like I see it.
We are undeniably living in a time where the health and life of people is more fragile than it has been in a very long time. More people are dying right now than is typical because of the strain this pandemic has placed on our health care systems. Whether those deaths are directly coronavirus related or not does not matter. People are suffering and dying.
Not doing everything in your power to keep yourself from being a node in the chain of infection that could lead to someone else's suffering or death is irresponsible, disrespectful, and defiantly against God's will for Christians.
Fear vs. Wisdom
While my primary concern is to address an attitude of flippancy regarding the virus, I do not want the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction either. The temptation to respond in fear is equally as strong.
I am in no way calling for everyone to lock themselves in their homes and hide in fear. Instead I wish to inspire wisdom. Genuine, Biblical wisdom is the only proper response.
Fear means doing nothing. Wisdom means doing everything you can as safely as you can to love people.
Wisdom says to do your part to stop the spread of the virus. Wisdom says you may leave your house, but do it as little as possible. Leave for necessary physical, mental, and spiritual needs only. Wisdom says that when you do go out in public you wear a mask and maintain social distancing to prevent the spread of infection, to prevent the spread of suffering. Wisdom says that just because you might not get sick if you get infected, you could unknowingly cause someone else to become sick and possibly even die.
Wisdom says any unnecessary risk to your own or another's health is foolishness.
Most importantly, wisdom says anything that incurs God's wrath is foolishness.
I challenge any church to deem it wise to engage in meetings during a time of hyper elevated risk of negatively affecting someone's health. Please explain how a church, a place meant for healing and hope, can willingly defy God and cause harm to not only its own people, but the general populous that surrounds its flock.
Additionally, as a warning and not a specific call (as I have thankfully not seen it), I say to any church seeking to reopen in response to a decrease in the tithe, "get behind me satan." Do not walk in fear. Where is your Faith?
So What Should We Do?
These are times where the enemy has placed the entire world under attack. There is a massive spiritual war underway. I pray that the Church does not fall victim to his schemes and incur the wrath of God on themselves.
Wisdom and God's word says we all follow our local and federal guidelines. This means no gatherings of more than 10 people, practicing social distancing, and wearing a mask in public settings.
Times have been changing for a while now and this crisis is simply making that all the more apparent. While it will never be a permanent replacement for genuine, human, face-to-face interaction, technology has come a long way and allows us to still love people in place of physical meetings. God is recapturing the hearts of people, and He doesn't need physical gatherings to do it. We can continue to love people through online services and encouragement, safe food-drive drop-offs, and video chat game nights, to name a few.
Re-opening should take place fully instep with government guidelines and with the responsibility and respect for the health of your community completely accounted for.
Lastly, the most important thing for us to do in this time is to pray, pray, pray. An organization that my Church has partnered with called Unite 714 is leading people in prayer twice a day at 7:14 centered around 2 Chronicles 7:14.
'When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.' (ESV)
2 Chronicles 7:13-14
May God's peace and wisdom be with you to strengthen you and encourage you, such that He may draw your heart closer and closer to His. Amen.