In the light of the COVID-19 epidemic we are seeing some of the deepest darkest places in the church come to life. Things that we thought the church had stopped doing in the dark ages are being laid bare, and it is surprising, saddening and in some cases downright embarrassing. The biggest way it is showing up is Pastors, telling their people to ignore scientific and medical evidence and continue to go to church. When it comes to a church having service during a time of health concern, I have heard many voices from many different churches, but one in particular has cut me to the core. It has saddened me and frustrated me at the same time.
“Prove Your Faith”
This voice is the voice of “Prove your Faith” within many churches. I am hearing that during this time of mandated social distancing there are churches who refuse to change their schedules or refuse to cancel services because “God is bigger than Coronavirus.” I have this to say regarding that statement; And even though it is specific to the issues we have been facing since March of 2020 it does not change the reality of the truth of scripture seen here in any timeframe.
Yes, God is bigger than Coronavirus and yes our faith is stronger than the fear the virus is spreading. However, it concerns me church leaders are convincing people that they need to prove their faith by going to church. I have a few thoughts regarding this stance. 1.) If you are going to church in the middle of an outbreak to “prove” your faith, you do not understand orthodox Christian theology.
- As Christians, totally dependent on Christ, not only do we not have to prove our faith, we are incapable of proving it.
- Romans 3:10-12: 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Nothing you are EVER going to do is going to prove you are a “good Christian” or that your faith is strong. Going to church amid a Pandemic to prove your faith is a pointless gesture. And it is dangerous, putting people in vulnerable populations at risk. If you are a pastor, telling your congregation to come to church and they will be safe, you are playing a dangerous game of virus chicken. And for what? You can not prove your faith, so what is the point?
Cherry Picked Gems for the Moment
This “gem” has been thrown around to show that Christians will be protected: This is how you will see that the Lord shows the distinction between Egypt and Israel. -Exodus 11:7
The argument is that God will not allow the true people of God to be infected by this modern-day plague. The problem here is if you believe this, you are cherry picking scripture! Context matters when discussing scripture! The plagues of Israel were created specifically by God for one purpose- to free the people of Israel form the bondage of Egypt. The people were made aware of it before hand by God and then given specific instruction by God on what to do to prevent dying from this plague. See Exodus 12:1-13.
Read these verses in their entirety and then read them again! Do you see how specific the Lord was in His instruction, so there was no mistake? Do you see both Aaron and Moses were told this? This tells me two things. If you believe the Lord has told you to continue to hold service at the risk of your congregation, who else did he tell? He has always informed the people as one unit! The Coronavirus doesn’t meet the context of this verse. No one, including myself has received a word like this at this time. Not to mention, the Word came before the plague, not during! Are we saying if a Christian dies of the Coronavirus they weren’t really a Christian? That’s very Salem Which Trial of you to say!
Using the Faith of The Black Death
If Christians come into contact with Coronavirus, they will be infected. This idea has also been thrown around Facebook- “The church held service during the Black Death” Maybe we don’t use the incarnation of the church that created the Pear of Anguish to decide the next steps of the modern church. This is a theologically and scientifically ignorant argument. Yes, Churches did hold service during the Black Death, And Christians died! In just three years, 1348 to 1350, the Black Death killed more than one-third of the entire population between Iceland and India. The disease, bubonic plague, was so lethal some went to bed well and died before morning; some doctors caught the illness at the patient’s bedside and died before the patient, about 20 million deaths.
And what did the church do? It encouraged prayer and marches through plague areas to petition God. And they died. This is not martyrdom, this is murder by pastors and leaders of the flock. The Black Death occurred in the most Christian dense part of earth at the time, and over 20 million people died. So firstly, comparing Coronavirus to the Black Death is grossly inaccurate, but using an argument from the 1350’s on what the church should do about it is far more egregious! They didn’t die because they lacked faith or didn’t attend service, they died because they didn’t know congregating would make it worse. We know better and we must do better.
No Fear and Sound Mind
I have also seen the “God did not give us a Spirit of Fear” attitude as a reason to not be afraid and go to church. Again, this is high order cherry picking and unacceptable Theology. Let’s look at this verse: 2 Timothy 1:7-8: 6For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and self-control. 8So do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me, His prisoner. Instead, join me in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.
What is the reason for not having fear? Persecution, not disease. But even if your argument is that the government is trying to prevent you from assembling, there is a comma after “God did not give us a spirit of fear, not a period. The amplifying information tells us we were given, peace, love and a sound mind. A sound mind speaks to intelligence. If my congregation has an average age of 72, and the virus is most deadly to those over 60, is it intelligent to have them gather? Absolutely Not!
You Were Given Intelligence, not just Blind Faith
You were not given a spirit of fear, you should not fear the coronavirus, but you should not intentionally advocate for those who could die from it to expose themselves. How are you suffering for the gospel by getting Coronavirus? What are you proving? Exercise the sound mind God has given you. Are people overreacting? This is possible. But we have facts that this virus will kill older people and those with preexisting repertory conditions.
As a pastor, you must make the decision based on what you know. If you know you could spread it and hurt anyone, cancel service, conduct alternative services online. Don’t apply 1350’s logic to 2020. Lastly, I’ve heard during this time that since it is only killing 2% of the infected, we shouldn’t care. You will think that way until your relatives or your grandparents fall in that 2%. We must value Christian life the way Jesus values it. If we can save 1, the 99 should stay home. I find it hard for someone to be Pro-Life and put their congregations at risk for nothing.