By Tyson Thorne

March 18, 2020

Coronavirus Large

Schools are closing, offices are encouraging people to work from home, churches are shutting their doors and governments are encouraging restaurants to move to a take-out\delivery only model of service. It all begs the question, how does one think-biblically about the Wuhun Virus (aka coronavirus, or COVID-19)? I've heard from a great many of my readers\listeners about their thoughts regarding how we, as the people of God, are to react to a world that is largely hiding through self-quarantine from an unseen, possibly life-threatening virus. As such, I thought it might be time to offer my own understanding of the matter.

Some have criticized churches for suspending services, quoting Hebrews 10.25, "And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near" (emphasis mine). You've heard it before, I'm sure, that context is the most important element in properly understanding Scripture. The author of Hebrews was addressing a very different problem — people not attending church at all — and not the current issue of temporarily suspending services due to health concerns. Sometimes distance can be a good thing, so long as it isn't permanent.

I've also heard criticism based on the providence and power of God. Our lives rest in God's hands, and we'll die when he is ready for us and not before. While it is true that God is in ultimate control over life and death, Jesus reminds us (and the Devil) that we are not to put the Lord to the test (see Matthew 4.5-7). Furthermore, Jesus commanded us to be wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove (Matthew 10.16). By putting ourselves at risk unnecessarily is not being wise, and possibly endangering others (one can have the virus for up to two weeks without symptoms) is not being innocent.

To ministers of all types I'd like to offer a little guidance. I've had my own health issues since last fall, which is why production of new articles and podcasts have been curtailed. I've tried very hard to not expose others to anything that could be transmitted by me. I believe it is the right thing to do, knowing that God doesn't need me to accomplish his will on earth even if he does use me from time to time. It is arrogant to assume one must push through and continue their ministry while possibly infecting others with their illness. God can accomplish his work without you, so take the time to get well and then continue your Kingdom chores.

In this modern age, it is easy to continue to teach the flock even when under self-quarantine. The simplest option is to post a sermon's text online — even on Facebook if the church doesn't have it's own website. Second to that, record a video of a sermon and upload it to the Internet (again Facebook or YouTube offer free services). Only a laptop with a camera and a video connection is required. Some churches have the ability to live broadcast across the Internet an entire service, which is a good option. If the community is fairly low-tech, a church might look into a call-in meeting during service times where a pastor can deliver a sermon over the phone. Think through your options, there are plenty out there.

For everyone else, I advise calm, rational thinking. God is in control, but take reasonable precautions. Listen to your spiritual leaders and don't fall into bad habits. When this immediate crisis passes, you'll be expected back at church and to resume the fellowship of believers. Also, make sure you reach out to your neighbors. What a great opportunity to show the love of God by sharing with them from your bounty of canned goods, toilette paper and the like. Just because we are expected to stay home doesn't mean we aren't responsible to continue loving others. For now, may God bless you and keep you.

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