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Well the topic of today’s blog obviously wasn’t planned. Right now we are experiencing a virus called COVID-19 or the Corona Virus. Just for reference purposes, the making of this podcast/blog is 2020. So, I’ve titled this blog: When Christianity Becomes Dishonoring: A Message in the Midst of COVID-19. Right now the government has asked everyone not to meet in groups of more than 10 and to only go out into public spaces if absolutely necessary. The virus is extremely contagious and the point is to flatten the curve so we can get our country on the downhill slope of this virus. BUT….
There are some churches in my area and other areas who are still meeting for regular services in the midst of the spread of the Corona virus. Now, before I say what I’m about to say, I want to make sure you know that I’m not mad at them – in fact, I think that they THINK they are doing what honors God during this time, so that’s why I want to put this out there so they can see a different view and, I think, a more biblical view.
The churches that are still meeting are using the American privilege of “freedom of religion” as a way to allow their congregation to still meet in person in large numbers. They are doing this despite the strong request of our government leadership on the national, state, and local level. Here’s something I think we have to remember: freedom of religion is a privilege we have as Americans. Many Christians in other countries don’t have these same freedoms. And yet some of us who legally have this freedom are exploiting it during this time to continue to meet. First Corinthians 10:23 is the essence of the phrase “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” I think that applies here. It’s actions like these that make it a real possibility for the “freedom of religion” here in America to one day be taken away. Why abuse our freedom of religion when NOT abusing it is actually the better thing for the good of our neighbor and community in this time? What happened to “love your neighbor” I wonder? Here’s two more biblically based reasons why this is dishonoring to God on the part of Christians and a terrible witness to the world:
1) The Bible clearly states in Romans 13:1 – “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” In other words, this verse is telling Christians to humble themselves to be subject to the advice and requests of our governing authorities. Why? Because God can use even our humility and compliance in these times as a witness to the world. There’s a concept I was taught a long time ago that has been wisdom in my life. I heard someone say, “God wants his leaders to only be IN authority to the degree that the person can be UNDER authority.” Did you get that? Let me say it again: “God wants his leaders to only be IN authority to the degree that the person can be UNDER authority.” Every leadership position given power in the Bible that God describes is supposed to be one of servant-hood and humility…not the throwing around of “rights.” I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s almost a spirit of defiance on the part of these churches wanting to gather despite the ordinances…defiance, not humility. In a spoken or unspoken way, they’re saying “we’re still gonna meet no matter what you want” and “we are exempt and above everyone else.” This is a shame. Aren’t we STILL the body of Christ while not meeting in groups of 10 or more? Yes we certainly are! Are singing songs as a group and listening to a sermon really the most glorifying thing to God during this time? We can move those things to the private prayer closet and online for this season and still glorify Him. And we can find better and more effective ways to serve him that don’t break the 10 person rule in this time. I think He’s doing something different right now and we need to listen. The Pharisees who were stuck in the religious practice part of their religion were the ones that Jesus spoke most harshly to. Keep that in mind during these times. Whether we meet together as a congregation or not, we are STILL the church. We are the body of believers because the Holy Spirit dwells in us, not because we built a beautiful building with a great sound system. The Holy Spirit will lead us to serve our community in effective ways during this time if we will listen.
2) In light of the Corona Virus I think we need to read Philippians 2:1-8…maybe even everyday. Listen to these verses in light of our situation. I’ll emphasize some lines so maybe as I read/write them, you’ll be able to grasp them without having studied them yet (the sidenotes in parenthesis are obviously mine):
If then there is ANY encouragement in Christ, if ANY consolation of love, if ANY fellowship with the Spirit, if ANY affection and mercy, make my joy complete by THINKING THE SAME WAY, HAVING THE SAME LOVE (what way of thinking is he talking about when he says “make my joy complete by thinking the same way, having the same love”? He’s talking about the thinking and love of Jesus. This passage will describe that in a little more detail when it starts talking about Jesus so hold tight), united IN SPIRIT, intent on one purpose. DO NOTHING OUT OF SELFISH AMBITION OR CONCEIT, BUT IN HUMILITY CONSIDER OTHERS AS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOURSELVES (did you hear that? Consider others as more important than yourselves – this includes taking suggested measures to protect our communities from the spread of the virus rather than holding our own agendas and plans above care for others….As an added side note, continuing to let the virus spread will also effect our nation’s economy so when the governing authorities have asked us to stop meeting, it’s not just about stopping the virus for the care of our community, its also about the care of our nation. Ok, let’s continue…). EVERYONE SHOULD LOOK OUT NOT ONLY FOR HIS OWN INTEREST, BUT ALSO FOR THE INTERESTS OF OTHERS.
ADOPT THE SAME ATTITUDE AS THAT OF CHRIST JESUS, WHO, EXISTING IN THE FORM OF GOD, DID NOT CONSIDER EQUALITY WITH GOD AS SOMETHING TO BE EXPLOITED. INSTEAD HE EMPTIED HIMSELF BY ASSUMING THE FORM OF A SERVANT, TAKING ON THE LIKENESS OF HUMANITY. AND WHEN HE HAD COME AS A MAN HE HUMBLED HIMSELF BY BECOMING OBEDIENT TO THE POINT OF DEATH – EVEN DEATH ON A CROSS.” Did you catch the last part of that passage? It’s basically saying that Jesus, being fully God and equal with him in the trinitarian sense, did not use his “rights” as God to do whatever he wanted. He didn’t exploit His right to equality with God. Instead he emptied himself of his God rights and became a servant and a man.
In the same way we should not use our rights to do whatever we want and defy authority. Think as Christ would (with humility) – and love with the same love that Christ would (with servanthood).
This is a call to all Christians during this time – Let us “be still” before God long enough to ask Him what He wants of us in this unique time. If an idea pops in your head that disrespects the authority placed above you, I’m just going to tell you, it’s probably not from God. The virus has brought us to a standstill – a sort of standstill that many of us have never allowed ourselves to experience. So in this stillness, let us seek God. I know that we will find Him in the stillness. Remember that God’s revelation to Elijah wasn’t in the mighty earthquake or the massive wind or the fire, but God’s revelation was found after those in a still small voice – a soft whisper – one that could only be heard in the stillness (1 Kings 19:9-18). I love all of my brothers and sisters in Christ – may we seek Him wholeheartedly together in the stillness.