We have all been affected by COVID-19 in one form or another. Whether your workplace is closed down, your kids are out of school unexpectedly or you’re just out of toilet paper, this virus has changed the world in a short period of time. I have been praying and processing through how to respond to this crisis.
- GOD IS SOVEREIGN
An overarching theme of the Bible is God’s complete and utter control over all things. There is nothing that happens without Him knowing it. This virus, and its global effects, have not taken Him by surprise. As Christians who worship this sovereign God, we need not be afraid. Even the elderly and immunocompromised (the two most susceptible categories) saints need not be afraid. Through Jesus, there is victory of death, Hell and the grave. We are not guaranteed to survive plagues and famines, but we are guaranteed an eternal inheritance in the presence of our Savior!
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55
- SUBMIT TO THE GOVERNMENT
The Bible is clear in Romans 13:1-7 that we are to submit to the governing authorities. These authorities are put in place by God and are charged with the protection and well-being of their constituents. The passage goes on to say that to resist those authorities is to resist God. There are many who are pointing to the government shutting down schools, sporting events and other large gatherings (including some worship services) as the government’s attempt at censorship. These friends point to Acts 4:15-22 where Peter and John were ordered by the governing authorities not to preach anymore but they continued doing so, choosing to obey God rather than men.
If that were the situation we are facing I would like to think I’d line up with Peter and John. But this is not the situation we are facing. We are being asked to practice ‘social distancing’ by the government in order to slow down the spreading of the virus.
Our governing authorities at the local, state and federal level have a tough job. These are unprecedented times. There is not a politician alive who has governed through a pandemic before. We should speak about them with respect and make sure we “pray for all those in authority” (1 Timothy 2:2)
- IT IS GOOD FOR THE SAINTS TO GATHER
With that said, I acknowledge the tremendous benefit of the saints gathering together. We are commanded to ‘not forsake the gathering together’ (Hebrews 10:25) and we know that ‘just as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another’ (Proverbs 27:17). Therefore, we are committed to gathering as soon as it is prudent. There is no substitute for presence. We will always do our best to make sure there is a physical gathering, or gatherings, of people in order that we may be “mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:12). In the meantime, out of love for our neighbors, we will submit to the government’s mandates regarding gatherings.
- BE DISCERNING ABOUT PANIC vs. PRUDENCE
To be honest right out of the gate, this one is more my opinion than a ‘chapter and verse’ argument. But wisdom is a biblical concept and we have been given wisdom from above. Like many of you, I have been frustrated by the lack of basic items in our grocery stores. Finding toilet paper, bottled water or sanitizer is like finding some long-lost artifact. It is amazing, though, how easily we let prudence get swept up in our panic. I have categorized it this way:
Panic: Unnecessarily buying hoards of toilet paper, bottled water, sanitizer, meat, dairy, etc.
Prudence: Limiting mass gatherings, such as major sporting events, large worship services, school gatherings, large workplaces, etc., so the global spreading of this virus can be terminated and we can get back to a normal life. Even if you disagree with how ‘social distancing’ is being done, we can see the prudence of this method.
The problem has become we lump prudence in with panic. Let’s try to think about these things with discernment.
- LET YOUR CONVERSATIONS BE FULL OF GRACE AND SEASONED WITH SALT
I mainly wrote the four previous points to get to this one. Several people in our own body have been financially affected by quarantine. As their friend and pastor, I am I am deeply concerned about the financial impact this shutdown is having. I also acknowledge that in my 40 plus years of life I have never experienced the government reaching into my life the way they are now. I, along with many of you, am keeping a watchful eye on the length and breadth of these mandates.
At the same time, when discussions are had and social-media postings are made about Coronavirus there are a lot of things said and typed that need to be thought about more deeply. It is common to see statistics referring to the low death rate of COVID-19. I get it. Sometimes we need to be told that we’re making “mountains out of molehills,” so to speak; however, we must be mindful that there are people out there who have genuine concerns about this virus. There are also those out there who may have lost a loved one to this virus.
When we make social media posts or have conversations with our friends we need to extend grace. There are those who are extremely concerned by the virus, those who are completely unconcerned about the virus and there are many of us somewhere in between. In all those cases we need to be gracious to the image bearers that we are interacting with.
I desire, as a Christian, to be a place that is safe for people. I desire to be a person that is helpful to people. I desire to be a person that people feel like they can reach out to in the time of need. I pray that the elderly and immunocompromised people in our community would look to churches and Christians in general to help them in their time of need and I pray that they would find it here; in me and in you. How we speak about others is a reflection of Christ. That’s why Paul wrote to the Colossians:
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6).