Churches & Pandemic: Considering Others
The recent coronavirus resurgence set people’s teeth on edge. Especially parents waiting to see whether their school will conduct in-person classes soon or return to spring’s online environment.
Like everything else, the situation is fluid. Aside from school, it remains to be seen whether congregations will continue holding in-person worship services or—like a number of well-known megachurches—ride out 2020 online.
During March’s lockdown phase, some pastors chose to make live worship services a hill on which to die. This stance turned out to be an outlier, as the majority decided tempting fate was a bit foolish.
For me, insisting on holding services amid a raging pandemic seemed comparable to Satan trying to tempt Jesus to throw himself off the temple (Matthew 4:5–6) to prove God’s angels would rescue him.
As Jesus put it, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’” (v. 7.)
Taking a Stance or Considering Others
Aside from the question of whether it was foolhardy to continue meeting in person, there was another concern. I wonder how many “you can’t tell me what to do” Christians considered how their stance affected non-believers?
In March, I felt it was tantamount to telling the community, “You know, we don’t care if we’re putting the public at risk and possibly spreading the coronavirus by gathering in our sanctuary. We’re going to do what we want to do anyway.”
Similar arguments are raging now over whether the government can tell us to wear a mask. Really?
You don’t like masks. Neither do I. In my opinion, they’re a good reason to stay home.
But when I go out in public or attend church—yes, we have been meeting again, observing appropriate cautions—I wear one. And not just because our state and most retail establishments require them.
I wear one out of respect for those who might be fearful if I didn’t.
And I wear one in obedience to governmental authority which, regardless of conspiracy theorists, isn’t trying to herd us like cattle into detention camps.
After all, Romans 13:1–2 says: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists what God has appointed” (MEV).
Taxes to Whom Due
It’s worth noting that Paul wrote these words about the Roman government—not exactly friends of the Christian community.
Yet without government, we have what we saw this summer in Seattle, where “the people’s paradise” led to unbridled chaos and two deaths.
This is one reason Jesus told his followers to pay taxes: to support government.
Matthew 17:24–27 contains a key story about some temple tax collectors asking Peter if his Teacher paid the tax. Later, Jesus asked Peter where kings took taxes: from their sons or strangers?
When Peter replied, “Strangers,” Jesus said then the sons of God are free.
“However, lest we offend them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. And when you open its mouth, you will find a coin. Take it and give it to them for you and Me,” Jesus said in verse 27.
The point: as Christ’s followers, we aren’t subject to the world’s dictates. While we pay attention to their rules to avoid offending them, at heart we are free. We can worship God no matter where we are.