A global pandemic continues to oppress the world. Fear and uncertainty grow daily with businesses shutting down, jobs being lost, and others being affected by the virus. With a world in chaos, the church must stand firm and be the source of hope.
Matthew 5:13-16 states, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.”
Christ reminds us that the church is called to be salt and light to the world. Thus, the church could not be more vital for a fearful world experiencing pain and sorrow. But, does this mean that God wants the church to keep its doors open and continue to gather despite the government’s suggested quarantine? Some Christians have come to this conclusion. Though I understand and respect their intention, I do not find this to be the wisest decision.
Romans 13:1-2 states, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.”
As followers of Christ, we are called to submit to our government and recognize them as God’s authority. When Christians resist the authority of their government, they are resisting God Himself. Whether you agree with the policy or not, God calls us to be subject to the governing authorities. Regarding the virus, the United States government has asked its citizens to stay home for the time being. Thus, faithful Christians should respect and submit to the governing authorities as much as possible. Though some Christians would agree that we must submit to the government, some would quickly note that we must resist the government when it uses its authority to cause us to sin and or deny the lordship of Christ. But is the government really doing this? Of course not. The cause of the suggested quarantine has nothing to do with the Christian faith and everything to do with the health and well-being of our neighbors and fellow countryman. Religious persecution is not in the purview of this discussion. Likewise, many government officials proclaim Christ as their Lord and Savior and would renounce any policies denying believers that right. The quarantine is not meant to be a permanent ordinance persecuting the Christian faith, rather it is a temporary policy to protect the lives of those around us. If Christians want to honor the second greatest commandment which is to love our neighbor as our self, then we should submit to the authority of our governing officials and wait for more clarity on the situation. If certain circumstances change or if new information arises, then the church must continue to use discernment. Though we may not be affected by the virus, it could prove to be fatal to those who are the most vulnerable among us. So, does that mean that we just quit and shut down the church? Not at all. I find that the greatest confusion for certain believers comes from their misunderstanding of what it means to be the church. Some Christians have unintentionally redefined church as a building or an hour on a Sunday morning. Church has never been about a building. Church is and has always been the people. Romans 12 reminds us that we are the body of Christ and are called to present ourselves as a living sacrifice for God. Additionally, 1 Corinthians 3:16 states, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Therefore, church and worship are not a moment in time but a lifestyle. Yes, a physical gathering is ideal, but it is not always feasible. We must be willing to cease physical gatherings for a season to meet the needs of those who are most vulnerable. Those who choose not to gather physically are not doubting God’s power or goodness, rather they are honoring His command to protect life and serve those who Christ spoke of as the least of these (Matthew 25:40). I would recommend respecting the decisions made by our elected officials, wait and test the models given for the virus, and then evaluate the decisions that were made. How then does the church continue to be the church while navigating with wisdom? By utilizing the resources that God has blessed us with. We are more equipped and capable of connecting and ministering to others with technology than any other time in history. Social media has been taken over lately by the church! One cannot go on social media without seeing a Facebook live church service, a video devotional thought, prayer requests, encouraging posts, and so much more. Through the medium of technology, God has made fellowship and communion possible for the church. Additionally, many churches have begun to have Drive-In Services while continuing to social distance. Though ministry might be done differently than it has been done in the past – it is still ministry! Instead of rejecting the tools God has given us, the church can grow in this season and find new ways to reach the lost and serve those in need. The New Testament church did not allow persecution or physical circumstances to hinder their ministry and neither should we. So, use the tools God has given us, pray and minister to those in need, preach the gospel message, and above all else love God and love others. Be the church!