The Church in the Pandemic
The past weeks, days, and even hours, have continued to reveal how the world responds in fear and anxiety to the threat of an unseen germ. Times are uncertain. The enemy is invisible. The effects have been lethal. The comforts and idols many people have put their trust in now reveal they are only ephemeral: entertainment cannot save us; sporting events have all come to a halt and do not occupy the fullness of our time by their streaming; stocks have all but crashed. Even more disturbing than fear and anxiety are selfishness and the effacement of altruism. Furthermore, both news and social media continue to spread uncertainty and try to register points by nurturing fears and prophesying doom.
We are in the face of a pandemic. The emergency is global. No country remains untouched. No border is immune. No government is above the viral threat. “Viral” has now revealed its true meaning. Measures have been drastic, appropriately so, even if at times they have been late. Drastic times require drastic measures, and the latter have been likened to those taken during world wars and prior deadly outbreaks. In many places, gatherings have been disallowed. Even curfews have been imposed. Churches canceled meetings and worship services. Schools and colleges moved to online classes. Airports are empty. Flights are canceled. Stocks are having their worst days. Times are dire.
A cursory review of human history reveals to us that this is not the first pandemic, nor is it likely to be the last. It also shows us the pattern in which Christians and churches responded in the past, even in costly ways at times. The early church loved the outcast even when the rich fled the areas struck by pandemics. Christians were recognized as better than the Roman pagans because of how they cared for the needy. Throughout the centuries, Christians led efforts in starting hospitals, working among the sick, bringing medicine and the word of God even to the remotest places on the planet. A British journalist, Matthew Parris, an atheist, recognized that true transformation in certain African places was happening only among those served by Christian organizations rather than secular ones.
This pattern should not be different today. This is the time for believers to truly trust and believe in the hymns we sing, the sermons we preach, the Word we read, and the prayers we lift. It is all too easy to proclaim that we trust in the Lord our God, or that he is our refuge when all is well. But when disaster is at hand, our faith is put to the test:
- Do we really believe what we say we believe?
- Do we trust in God as our mighty fortress and ever-present help?
- Do we entrust him with the hairs on our heads, knowing he counts them all?
- Do we believe that he is mindful of us and that he cares for us, having made us only a little lower than the heavenly beings and given us dominion?
- Will the testing of our faith produce perseverance, patience, hope and a godly character?
- Will we respond to the chaos by bringing calm and peace to its midst?
- Will people know us by our behavior, steadfastness, joy, love, care, peace and faith?
- Will our messages, posts and tweets be edifying rather than fear-mongering?
- What account shall we give one day for our words and deeds?
- Will we love the body of Christ well even when we are unable to meet together?
- Will we do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before our Lord and the world?
- Will we be neighborly to all?
- Will we pray for God to be known as glorious?
- Will we fast and afflict ourselves as we ask him to end this pandemic?
- Will we be salt and light when the world is salty and feels it is in darkness?
- Will we work hard in serving others by caring for the families of those who are caring for the ill?
- Will we open our homes and our churches when hospitals are overrun and capacities are reached?
What we do today will echo for life, and in eternity. One day we will look back and evaluate our stance and response. One day history will look back and evaluate our actions. One day God will look back as we give an account. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He reigns over every place in this universe and every moment in history. He does whatever he pleases. He has promised us he will be with us to the end, and his purposes cannot be thwarted. He has blessed those who are merciful, those who make peace, those who are meek, those who are faithful. His promises are yes and Amen in Christ. So, let us exercise faith in Jesus. Let us believe the Lord. Let us be good neighbors. Let us be known for our love, faith, joy, humility, service and lives of prayer. Let us bring calm into the chaos. Let us obey the law and the advisories. Let us protect the most vulnerable among us. Let the words of our mouth, the meditations of our heart, and the acts of our hands and feet be pleasing to God.