Responding to COVID-19 as Christians and as a Church

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Brothers and Sisters - By this time you are almost certainly aware of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, that is currently spreading worldwide. The response of some appears to border on panic: stores are selling out of everything from cleaning supplies to paper products to drinking water. Schools and universities are canceling classes, businesses are telling people to work from home, shops and restaurants are seeing a 50-70% reduction in customers, and the Wall Street is taking a massive beating. Indeed, earlier this week I read where some in our society were wondering if COVID-19 is perhaps one of the plagues from the book of Revelation! All these speculations and behaviors seem to be based on deep-seated fear.
 
If you reflect, you’ll recall that every few years some “new” thing comes along and inevitably a degree of panic ensues for weeks or months. Yet we’re still here. Why this propensity to mass fear? There are many factors at play, but fear - of the unknown, of the future, of chaos, of death - is a powerful force. Scripture teaches that the fear of death is a key means by which the devil subjects people to lifelong slavery to him (Heb 2:15).
 
Yet we who have been born again have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control (2 Tim 1:7). This reality is what enables us to take heart in Jesus’ victory over the world (John 16:33) and be emboldened to cherish Him more than life itself. 
 
Whereas the system of this world fosters self-centeredness in which attempts at self-preservation trump all other concerns (these attempts are visible in reports of people fighting over toilet paper and stealing basic supplies from medical clinics), the Gospel of the Kingdom fosters love, which is always others-focused. This is why, throughout history, wherever and whenever you find plagues and calamity and people running for their lives… then and there you find Christians faithfully spreading the Good News and ministering to the physical needs of those around them. 
 
Rather than responding with fear and self-centeredness, let us respond with faith and love. Three factors influence our response:
 
First, remember that our Lord is sovereign and that this has not caught Him unaware: Our lives are in His hands, and He has ordained our days from before the foundation of the earth. Who knows, perhaps through this latest display of fear the hearts of many will be opened to the Gospel as they contrast their own fearful behavior with the fearlessness of God’s people who respond to this situation in love?
 
Second, keep your wits about you, and maintain perspective: Plague and pestilence are a chronic and persistent threat to humanity and a reminder that we live in a fallen, broken world. The sobering reality is that there are diseases on this planet that are truly horrific and bring almost certain death to anyone infected. But, thankfully, COVID-19 is not rightfully placed among them! Thankfully, reports indicate that the overwhelming majority of those who contract it will recover on their own. 
 
Third, while we must avoid faithless fear, this does not mean we proceed in a cavalier manner! Contracting even a “minor” case of COVID-19 would likely prove to be an ordeal given the stigma of being infected, the isolation of quarantine, not to mention the sickness itself!  Yet for the elderly or those with underlying health conditions COVID-19 can easily become a life-threatening disease. Statistical data released by the CDC and the WHO show a dramatic increase in fatality rate for the elderly. It is in light of this consideration that our duty to love others comes into brilliant clarity: Our commitment to loving our brother and sister and neighbor means that even if you are young and healthy you should take precautions lest you inadvertently become infected and pass it along to someone for whom COVID-19 may very well be a life-threatening illness
 
So, for you:

  1. If you feel sick, please stay at home! If you have been in contact with someone who is diagnosed with COVID-19, please stay at home until cleared by medical professionals.
  2. Please ensure that you cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
  3. You are encouraged to bring hand sanitizer and use it liberally, especially after shaking hands and before eating. 

 As a church family:

  1. We have ordered hand sanitizer stations that will be deployed around the church campus in high traffic locations.
  2. All hard surfaces will be disinfected after each event.
  3. Since it is difficult to sanitize books, you are encouraged to bear this in mind and either refrain from using pew copies and instead read from the screen, or use hand sanitizer after their use.
  4. If you use a pen from the back of the pew, please take it with you… we will replace it with a new one!
  5. We already live-stream the service throughout the campus, and we are exploring the possibility of live-streaming the service for the sake of those who may have to stay at home due to illness or quarantine. 

Brothers and Sisters - Above all, I encourage you to adopt a God-centered, Christ-exalting, Spirit-dependent mindset and respond in faithful prudence and joyful love of the brethren!
 
If you have any concerns or suggestions, please contact me!

Blessings,

Pastor Ben