An Urgent Message from Pastor Joey
I would suggest the reading of 1 Corinthians 13:1 – 13 in preparation for this message.
The current crisis has presented the Church with both challenges and opportunity.
While Christians are people of faith and are reminded of the need to trust God in all circumstance, it remains to be true that anxieties are a reality. Perhaps we worry the most about those whom we love. So do not feel guilty or judged because you have some worries but be encouraged by the promises of God.
It is also an obvious opportunity for the Church in the way that we respond to the crisis. Now is not the time to shrink back and retreat from our ministry and message, but a time to proclaim and demonstrate the hope that we have in our Lord and His eternal salvation. We can do this in uncountable ways.
However, a bit of controversy has arisen. Because we are people of faith, voices have been calling us to overcome our fears and essentially ignore the dangers of this sickness. “After all,” the claim is made, “God will protect us and keep us from harm.”
That invincibility thinking now flies in the face with the requests from our governments and our leading physicians to essentially isolate ourselves from one another so that the virus will be defeated. For some, that creates a dilemma. They feel that it is more important to obey what is thought to be the commands of Christ than the dictates of man.
But let’s take a closer look at this issue:
First off, I am pointing out to you that following the guidelines and regulations is not operating out of fear but out of wisdom and respectful obedience to our government leaders, which by the way is a biblical commandment. Yes, there are indeed promises of protection, but remember that the Israelites who were in Egypt during the plagues had to stay in Goshen to remain under God’s protection.
I know some will point out the example of the apostles who continued to preach the gospel even after they were forbidden. This is not the same thing. Nothing in the guidelines prevents us from finding another way to minister and to preach the Gospel. We have not been forbidden to spread the word, nor have we been forbidden to minister to people,
only that we do it in a safe manner.
Secondly, following the guidelines does not mean we lack faith. Having faith does not mean we throw out wisdom. Would we waste money because we believed God would re-supply our needs? Do we act recklessly at work or play on the belief God will protect us from our own stupidity? Further, it is not Christlike to throw accusations at other Christians simply because they are following the restrictions.
Regarding touching and close contact, it has been argued to me that Jesus reached out and touched the “untouchable” lepers of His day, and this is purported to be an example for us. There is however a major difference to consider. Touching a leper did not in anyway endanger the leper. We may be willing to accept the risk of the virus for ourselves, but would we not be endangering the very people we wish to care for?
I have personally had to respond to some with regard to this so-called fear and lack of faith in our response to the disease.
My ultimate answer is that I must first and foremost operate out of love.
When I missed my granddaughter’s 5th birthday this past week it was not out of fear or lack of faith, it was out of love. I love my family dearly and would never want to put them at risk. And consider this: How would my loved ones feel if they exposed the sickness to me, their beloved Opa? Could you imagine the guilt they would feel?
I believe the Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13 offers us some very important insight into the questions of faith, action and love. Let’s take a closer look at some of the propositions.
Verse 2 “though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
The faith here is not about faith for personal salvation, but rather about the things we do in faith. Yes, it is great to venture out in boldness, but it must be motivated and tempered by love.
Verse 3 continues the thought: 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Notice that it carries the thought right into the extreme of self sacrifice. Again, without love, even personal self sacrifice it has no spiritual value.
I need also to speak to an apparent air of superiority when it comes to this issue. Some well meaning Christians who believe we should ignore the guidelines because it somehow violates our commitment to Christ have voiced opinions in a somewhat judgmental way. Let them be reminded that what is spoken without love is simply “noise.” (Verse 1).
Also, true love “does not behave rudely.” (Verse 5).
There is also a tendency by some to claim superior knowledge, saying things like, “Well God told me…” and it is usually something that contradicts the counsel of our spiritual leaders who have wisely given us guidance to work in cooperation with the guidelines. I believe verses 9 to 12 rightly remind us that we do not know everything, and so we should approach these questions with humility rather than arrogant presumption.
Finally, verse 13 tells us that faith, hope and love do abide with us, but the greatest of these is love. Today, I would affirm to you that no matter what we do, it should be out of love, and if we truly love people, we will not put them at risk.
Let me in closing come back to the question of how we can proactively respond to the crisis in a Godly and loving manner.
Nothing of what I have said means we should abandon or neglect anyone, especially those in need. Now more than ever is the time to reach out, to love and to help. However, we can do all that within the safety guidelines.
Do not venture out among people unless it is necessary. This is hard to do but essential to halt the spread.
Do not leave your homes if you have any symptoms of the sickness (Sadly, many have been infected by people who knowingly ignored this principle.) To do this certainly demonstrates a lack of love.
When you do go out, maintain your distance and employ all the sanitary requirements. This is especially true even if you are caring for someone who is ill and in need of your assistance.
Also, you do not absolutely have to “touch” or lay hands on people. Although this has been a common practice associated with prayer, there were other means of divine healing demonstrated in the Bible. Cast a shadow if you must (Acts 5). Anyone who insists on any narrow formula, like the laying on of hands, is operating with a religious spirit. An insistence on a formula seems contrary to the character of Jesus, and He is not going to withhold healing simply because we did not employ a specific method.
Children of God, let us do all we can, and in the doing, do it out of love, not just in our motivation but in the actual practice. If we truly love, let us keep everyone safe.