Today New York is shutting down all non-essential businesses and meetings. I imagine Illinois will not be too far behind. Here are my thoughts. No deep digging into biblical texts today; I am also avoiding political wrangling (whether accusation or defense). In fact, these thoughts are not organized or edited for presentation in any particular way. They are just things that come to mind as I consider what is happening in the world.
Jesus is King of kings and viruses
Christ is still reigning. He was enthroned at his ascension and vindicated before the world. His people have been justified and vindicated before God and man. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. No enemy of man or plague can upset his reign. The one whom even the winds and waves obey, who rebuked devils and made the lame to walk, who cleansed the leper and called the dead to life has not lost his hold on creation.
For those who believe, this is obvious, but it bears reminding. Plague will not upset the plans of Jesus Christ in the world, and neither will rulers and politicians who attempt to use plagues and crises to their advantage. This coronavirus certainly seems to pale in comparison to the plagues of history that we read about, that wiped out whole swathes of society. But rulers of the world will press the advantage. Do not be troubled. He has overcome the world.
The Church Reigns with Him
Because Jesus reigns, his people reign with him, enthroned in heavenly places with our Lord. He has called us to maturity, to the discerning of good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). Therefore, be wise as serpents, yet pure as doves. This includes trusting the testimony of brothers in the Lord who are employed in the care of the sick. Listen to them when they say that they are being overwhelmed.
It also means dealing with the aftermath, whatever comes next. When rulers enact unjust laws, whether justified by worldly philosophies or by fear of the unknown, it is the job of those who rule in Christ to say “This is not according to the Law of God.” It is our responsibility to witness to the rulers of the world that we answer to a higher authority, the authority who, in fact, placed them in their seats of power.
Hold Council, even if through provisional means
The Church of Jesus Christ seated with him in heavenly places is the Divine Council. A gathered nation of royal priests anointed by the Holy Spirit as prophets. As his Council we are to engage in the work of the Kingdom, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some (Hebrews 10:25), but assembling as the royal Council in the congregation to worship.
This does not mean that we abandon prudence in order to protect those among us who are at higher risk for illness. It may be that we will need to find new ways to “meet” provisionally in the short term. This may mean we stream worship to our homes through technological ways that were unavailable to our fathers in the faith. Company boards and world leaders “meet” and hold council on earthly matters through phones and other devices. This may be necessary in some cases, to be determined by the leaders of individual congregations.
However, streaming is not meeting. You cannot break bread on the Internet. People were not created for isolation with only aural/visual contact through a screen. Jesus ate with, touched, and lifted up the people he ministered to, and so must we. To engage in singing our Lord’s praises with the air shuddering around us at our music; to occupy the same space and breathe the same air—these are the signs of our perichoretic covenant union with Jesus because we are all members of his Body.
The provisional means must be provisional. If it should become clear that the assembly of the Church is being relegated to the “non-essential,” or that their Council is being kept from gathering, we must obey God rather than man.
Present the World to the Father
Whether in person or by provisional means, this is the first work of the Council. We gather to be priests to the world, presenting the world to our great King and Father in heaven as an offering. The sacrifices of bulls died and ascended to heaven in clouds of smoke so that the world might be presented before God. Now we are the priestly bulls, entering heavenly places to represent the world to God. Ultimately, our witness is more important than our lives. And so as we gather together as Council, we offer the world up to our Father, bringing it into his presence in worship.
Advise the King
The prophets were invited into the Council of God, and God graciously revealed his plans to them so that they might advise him. God has no need for the wisdom of man. But he delights to hear us, and has welcomed us as his sons into his close Council so that we might mature as kings.
In this way, God told Abraham of the disaster he intended to bring upon Sodom, so that Abraham might intercede for the righteous. Even so, God told Moses of the disaster he intended for Israel, so that Moses might intercede even for that rebellious nation. So also God told Amos of the plagues he intended to send so that Amos might plead for Judah. So God put the matter of Ahab’s death before his Council and commissioned a member to carry out his will in the world.
Now, all of God’s people are prophets just as Moses had desired, and God has put his Spirit upon us. It is our duty as the company of prophets to pray and intercede for the world. Is there plague? The gathered Church ought to advise the king and intercede. Are there unjust rulers? It is the Church’s duty to petition our God that they might repent, and if they will not, that they should be replaced by those who will rule justly. Are there just rulers? It is our duty to uphold them in prayer and petition that their arms might be strengthened and their positions made secure.
Is “The End”™ in Sight?
This is not the end of the world. It is not the end of the Church, even in the unlikely case that it turns out to be the end of Western Civilization as we know it. God works in history through extraordinary means to bring his people to new places and to establish his Kingdom. We do not fear conspiracies. We do not place our faith in conspiracies either.
Don’t look to heaven for a way of escape the trouble of this world. Look to heaven for the courage and strength to carry out the Great Commission of Matthew 28 in the midst of crisis and in the new day that will dawn after this crisis has passed. There is work to do, and there will be work to do after this is done. Get ready.
Some recommended quarantine readings: