By Heather Walton
I am continually surprised by the comments I’m seeing on social media and in the news, regarding this outbreak of coronavirus. I completely understand feeling frustrated by having to stay at home, not being able to attend church, having to suddenly “homeschool” children of various ages, and facing possible financial ruin. These are all huge challenges.
However, when hundreds of people are dying in Italy in one day, and our governing authorities and medical professionals are telling us we need to stay home for the good of everyone, it baffles me that people don’t heed the warnings. A few weeks ago, I too thought this was overblown. I simply lacked understanding. As a nation, we were going along, business as usual. There were murmurs of this potential threat, but honestly, I was oblivious. Today, though, how can anyone be oblivious?
It concerns me to hear Christians say they aren’t going to obey the government. In Romans 13, we are told to obey the governing authorities. What kind of a witness is it for us to blatantly defy the government? It disturbs me that some people are adamant that we meet in person in order to fulfill Biblical commands, and therefore asserting our rights to meet. What about loving one another, being living sacrifices, denying ourselves, and living quiet lives among the unbelievers (Matthew 16, John 13, Romans 12-13, 1 Thessalonians 4)?
Psalm 91 is a wonderful comfort, and I have read it multiple times, especially in the past week. It upsets me, though, that some people are using this beautiful passage to justify meeting or going about their business as usual, because they believe God has promised that believers are protected from the coronavirus. I’m not saying that everyone who cites or shares this verse feels that way, but I’ve definitely seen it used to justify negligence. Even if no believer were to contract the virus or to die from it, isn’t it possible that a believer could carry it to an unbeliever?
What kind of witness is it to non-Christians that so many Christians deny that this virus is as destructive as it is, or are even willing to endanger others simply because of their rights? I remember a teacher in grade school saying that our rights end where our neighbors’ rights begin. So if I were healthy and I decided to just exercise my rights, regardless of the fact that it could compromise my neighbors’ health, would I be acting in a Godly way? Of course not!
Another argument I hear is that we shouldn’t live in fear. I agree completely! Why is it, then, that people are unwilling to protect their health and their neighbors’ health because they are afraid it will harm the economy, and specifically because they are concerned about their own financial status? Isn’t that giving in to fear? As someone who has struggled with a variety of health issues, I can tell you that I’d rather have my health than to have money in the bank. More than that, I’d rather have my loved ones’ health than financial security. Don’t most people feel that way?
Medical professionals continually tell us that, if we don’t follow the guidelines given out by the government, we are going to be in for greater sickness and death rates, longer time of having things shut down, and perhaps even forced confinement at home. Is that what we want? I don’t think so. However, what we say we want seems to be at odds with our actions. If we want this to end sooner and elicit fewer casualties, we need to submit to the governing authorities.
Better yet, brothers and sisters in Christ, rather than bemoaning the fact that we can’t be at church, let’s joyfully be the church! The church is not a building. We can assemble together online, and we can worship as households. Even more importantly, we can worship best by serving one another in the name of Jesus Christ.
In John 4, Jesus stopped in Samaria at a well, and he asked a woman for a drink of water. She proceeded to engage Him in a theological discussion about where to properly worship God. Jesus answered her essentially like this: “Woman, you’re asking the wrong question! It’s not about where you worship. It’s about how you worship. True believers worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:22-24, author’s paraphrase). Spirit and truth — neither is a physical thing, and neither can be contained in a physical building. Church, wake up! Stop being legalistic and demanding! It’s time for the church in America to take advantage of the time we’re living in and the situation at hand. Many are already doing this, but if you’re one of the holdouts who is bellyaching about what you can’t do, it’s time to consider what the Holy Spirit may be calling you to do right now. We are called to make the most of every opportunity, to redeem the time, to be wise, and to understand the Lord’s will, because we are living in dark times (Ephesians 5:14-17).
A few weeks ago, I hadn’t given the coronavirus more than a few minutes thought. Right now I’m sitting at home, unable even to go out and practice social distancing at the grocery store, because I’m waiting for the results of a test. According to the medical professionals, it will take a week to get the results. I wish I would get the results sooner than that, and so do a lot of people I’ve been in contact with, but perhaps the Lord is using this whole situation to create patience in many people, myself included. Because I’m not feeling great and I’m contagious, I may not be able to do the same things to serve others that I wish I could, but I’m trying to do what I can from right here on my couch. I hope that my perspective helps people.
So, if you’re a believer, here’s my challenge to you: What can you do today, in your present circumstances, to bless others, to be the church, to fulfill the Great Commission, and to advance the Gospel? If you’re not a believer, consider that God may be using current events to get your attention. This world is temporary and flawed, but God has something eternal and perfect for everyone who submits to His Lordship. Consider turning your life, your health, your finances, and your eternity over to Him today. And here’s my challenge to everyone: Let’s evaluate how we can live, making the most of our time and circumstances, that we may emerge better people when it’s once again time for social closeness.