Charlotte, N.C. – We have all been in the middle of a situation unlike any that we have seen in our lifetime. On one side, half the world is going to die. On the other, we’re dealing with a virus that is no worse than the flu. As is usual, the truth is probably somewhere in between. But we see a wide variety of responses from those around us. There are those who are ignoring it, while others are scared for their lives. I have pondered this article for several weeks, but I feel this is the right time to share my thoughts. As a Christian, there are many things that come to my mind and I want to share my thoughts on a Christian response to COVID-19. There are several points in this, so please bear with me.
First, I have heard stories locally of churches choosing to defy the orders of state and local officials and still choosing to assemble in order to worship. There are many scriptures that are used to help justify this position, but let’s look at this another way. The state and local officials are not ordering that you cease and desist from practicing your religion. Religion is not being banned or outlawed. They simply ask that you not gather in large groups. With all the technology that we have available today, this is very easy to overcome.
I’m sure some people will argue that not everyone has technology available. I understand this, but I argue that this is a great mission for the church. I have read of many churches finding ways to have services through streaming or social media services. Others have utilized their websites and e-mail to distribute content to their members. Who knows, maybe this is the sort of test that was needed to get the church to leave its walls and actually be the church again. Jesus himself taught in Luke 14 that the church should go out into the highways and hedges. Just because the church cannot gather into the 4 walls does not mean that it does not exist.
Being upset with churches closing seems natural. In fact, during the 1918 flu pandemic, pastors were protesting the closing of churches by public health officials. It is upsetting, but one thing we know is that social distancing works. There are many articles that talk about how the 1918 flu pandemic was much more controlled in areas that instituted distancing and closures. Can you imagine the thought if you went to church on Sunday and suddenly everyone in your church became sick? That’s exactly what happened in Illinois with COVID-19.
We also know from the data that the coronavirus is much worse for those who are older. The overwhelming majority of Americans who regularly attend church services are in the older generations. Is it really worth the risk to these people? Churches have survived direct persecution throughout history, but it seems many are struggling with accepting the fact that we actually must be considerate of others.
Second, I think this is a great time for churches to show others what church is really about. Philippians 2:4 teaches that you shouldn’t look to yourself, but to look at others. Scripture teaches kindness and compassion. Instead of doing these things, many members are out fighting for rolls of toilet paper at a local Wal-Mart or Target. Should we really fear running out of toilet paper when we have others around us that may have a bigger need?
The church can do a great work calling and checking on those who may be less fortunate than most. Checking on those who are older and those who may be sick more than most. These are the people at biggest risk. Maybe it’s dropping off some groceries or a hot meal for someone that is sick by their front door. This is the time the church should step up, not step back. I have a lot of room to do better in this area myself. I have spent more time on the phone with people recently than I normally do. Have I thought to ask them how they are? As a Christian, I have to do better.
Finally, this is a great time for the church to share a message of hope, rather than one of fear. Yes, the coronavirus is a serious virus. Yes, the coronavirus can kill you. But as a Christian I have faith that God will take care of me, no matter the outcome. In scripture, 1 Peter 5:7 tells me to give him all of my cares, because he cares for me. Philippians 4:6-7 teaches that I should not fear, but give these things to God in prayer and that he will give peace.
Do I want to become sick with the coronavirus or possibly die? Absolutely not. Anyone who would volunteer for such a thing is possibly ready for a mental institution. But as a Christian, I should not fear. I need to share those thoughts and concerns with God. Rather than worry and panic about things I cannot control, I have so many things I can control. I can use this time to spend more time with my family. I can spend more time in prayer and readings growing closer to God. While many will complain about their time at home, we should take advantage of the situation.
As Christians, we must also use this time to share the peace that we have inside with others around us. This is that peace that is described in Philippians 4:7 that passes all understanding. Why are we not worried? Why are we not fearful for our lives? It’s because we profess faith in a higher power. Isaiah 41:10 teaches us that we should not fear, because God is with us. He promises us his strength and his help. There is no reason for the Christian to be so fearful.
The Christian response to the coronavirus is not chaos and fear. In a world that is going crazy around us, we should be the ones that share the calm in the midst of the storm. We must share the peace that is beyond understanding. We should be praying for all those around us who are suffering. As Christians, we believe that God has everything under his control. If we truly believe that, now is the time to show it.
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