April 22, 2020
By John Carter
In light of the worldwide pandemic, commonly known as COVID-19, what is the proper Christian response? The answer is simple, love God and love others. However, the application of that simple answer has proven to be a bit more complex. It is clear from Scriptures that we must love God. This of course means obeying his commands. This plays out in at least five of the following ways.
We must seek to love God in all that we do.
This means that obeying commands is not enough. We must also love God in the way that we obey his commands. If you begrudgingly obey the commands of God you have failed to love and honor him. Our motives and actions must match. This requires rooting out any stain of sin in all that we do. This is more easily said then done. But by the power of the Holy Spirit it is possible to pursue.
We must seek to make clear to a lost and dying world the reality of life, death, and eternity.
The Christian must seek the life of his neighbor. This means eternity is of greater concern than this life. This means that a Christian is willing to risk his or her life to declare salvation through Christ alone. There is no reward for the Christian who sustains his life one more day at the expense of his neighbor’s eternal life. To hide in our homes afraid of death is to war against the claim that death has been defeated. We must take soberly the claims that a disease, virus, or other unseen agent is deadly. But this must not keep us from living with a Kingdom mindset. Instead it should lead us to comfort the fearful. For now, is when those dying needs a hand to hold. Now is when the sick needs a comforter. Now is when the perishing needs a word of encouragement and hope.
If soldiers hide from the battle due to risk of death and danger they would be charged with treason. How much more a Christian who hides from the battle lines of this crisis? It is the Christian who ought to work the frontlines. It is the Christian who should function as the essential workers. For it is the Christian who has more to gain in death then they do in this life.
We must obey God first and obey the governing authorities second.
This situation has brought to head the debate of how to interpret Roman 13:1-7. But this passage is often being quoted in isolation or in supremacy over all other passages. Many also quote the second greatest command, ‘love you neighbor’, as if the only proper application is to unilaterally obey the government’s orders. But it must be said, God’s commands trump the governing authorities’ directives. The Church in America would do well to ask how the persecuted Church has found a way to obey God and their governing authorities. For some this has meant leaving their land for another land (Acts 8:1), for others this has meant staying bold in their stand (Acts 8:1) willing to disobey when necessary. This is not an issue or rights but of obligations. More important than a person’s inalienable rights is a Christian’s obligation to obey that which he has been commanded to do by the living God.
We must gain a better ecclesiology.
A weak view of the Church will lead the Christian to too quickly jettison the traditions that have been handed down to us (1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thes 2:15; 3:6). It is foolish and naïve to believe that we can make changes to longstanding traditions without having long-lasting consequences. Abrupt changes to forms of worship, forms of gathering, and other seemingly inconsequential traditions may prove to be exciting in the beginning. Although it is necessary for every generation to assess the traditions that have been handed down to them, too often we ditch a biblically prescribed practice simply because we don’t like it. Before we embrace video conferencing as a new normal, we must ask, how should the incarnational ministry of Jesus impact the ministry of the Church? Or before we forego contact with the sick, we must ask, how should the example of Christ to the sick inform our decisions to interact with the sick? Not to mention that Elders are commanded to visit and anoint the sick with oil when called (Jam 5). Too many people are making decision about what church can be without asking what God has described the Church as and commanded her to be.
We must be gracious with those who disagree with us.
This situation has produced many fruitful discussions among Christians. But it has also provided opportunity for many evil accusations as well. We must not only love our neighbor in our response, but we must also love the brotherhood in our words. Humility, gentleness, and patience are not abstract or optional responses to those with whom we disagree. When we find ourselves at odds with a brother or sister in Christ, let us demonstrate our claims to love God and others.
Just because the best way forward may not be immediately clear, that does not mean that we are free to do as we wish. Let it be made clear, no one can bind the conscience where Scripture has not spoken. However, no Christian is free to do whatever they want when the Scriptures are abundantly clear. In these precarious times we ought to heed the Psalmist’s admonition and draw near to the Lord.
The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.
The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.
(Psalm 145:17-20 – ESV)
 Should the church still gather?
This first requires understanding what the church even is. Many have confused the church with worship. To say it differently, many have confused the purpose of the church with what constitutes a church. The church a gathered body of believer in the name of Jesus Christ who have expressed and explicit commitment to one another. The word English word ‘church’ is used to translate the Greek ecclesia which means gathering or community. In other words, you cannot have a church that does not gather. So, should the church gather? If it doesn’t then it is not a church.