Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Church In The Time Of The Virus: Bold, But Not Foolhardy (Episode 3)

When churches suspended their weekly brick and mortar meetings, I decided to take some time to address online what it looks like for the church to be the church in times like this. Thus, The Church In The Time Of The Virus. I began posting this on my church's Facebook page several weeks ago; since then, I have had some thoughtful conversations sparked by some of the issues I addressed. Because of that - and because I like wrestling with important ideas - each post is going to follow this format:
  • Video
  • Transcript
  • Reflections
The beautiful thing about the reflections part is that I can constantly update it, so the conversation can continue! You are welcome to offer helpful comments in the comment section and be a part of this conversation/archival record (as local and modest as it is).

(Read and Watch Episode 1: Introduction)
(Read and Watch Episode 2:Fearless, Not Fearful)
(Read and Watch Episode 4: Sacrificial Of Self, and Not Others)
(Read and Watch Episode 5: Faith-fullness Involves Trust)
(Watch and Read Episode 6: Faith-fullness Requires Humble Obedience)
(Read and Watch Episode 7: The Church's History During Plagues)
(Read and Watch Episode 8: Thinking With Both Hands)
(Read and Watch Episode 9: Spurgeon And The Plague Of London)
(Read and Watch Episode 10: Thinking With Both Hands)
(Read and Watch Episode 11: A Few Thoughts Have Been Brewing)
(Read and Watch Episode 12: Is COVID -19 A Judgment From God)
(Read and Watch Episode 13: Romans 12-14 - Coronavirus Version)
(Episode 14: Dear American Christian)
(Episode 15: Civil (Dis)Obedience)

Episode 3: Bold, Not Foolhardy



Back to Martin Luther’s letter again.

“They are much too rash and reckless, tempting God and disregarding everything which might counteract death and the plague. They disdain the use of medicines; they do not avoid places and persons infected by the plague, but lightheartedly make sport of it and wish to prove how independent they are. 
They say that it is God’s punishment; if he wants to protect them he can do so without medicines or our carefulness. This is not trusting God but tempting him. God has created medicines and provided us with intelligence to guard and take good care of the body so that we can live in good health... 
It is even more shameful for a person to pay no heed to his own body and to fail to protect it against the plague the best he is able, and then to infect and poison others who might have remained alive if he had taken care of his body as he should have. He is thus responsible before God for his neighbor’s death and is a murderer many times over. Indeed, such people behave as though a house were burning in the city and nobody were trying to put the fire out. Instead they give leeway to the flames so that the whole city is consumed, saying that if God so willed, he could save the city without water to quench the fire… 
No, my dear friends, that is no good. If the people in a city were to show themselves bold in their faith when a neighbor’s need so demands, and cautious when no emergency exists, and if everyone would help ward off contagion as best he can, then the death toll would indeed be moderate. But if some are too panicky and desert their neighbors in their plight, and if some are so foolish as not to take precautions but aggravate the contagion, then the devil has a heyday and many will die. 
On both counts this is a grievous offense to God and to man — here it is tempting God; there it is bringing man into despair.”

Star Trek’s motto was To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before. In its best sense, it means a fearless exploration of the unknown. In it’s worse sense, it would mean trampling on anything and everybody to do what you want. Star Trek had rules: going boldly included going wisely. Before you boldly go to new and undiscovered and uncertain places you have never been before outside of yourself, it’s best to boldly go and explore some new, undiscovered and uncertain places inside yourself, such as biblical habits and disciplines that have perhaps eluded you: prudence, self-restraint, other-centered thinking, humility. That’s going to make the difference between a boldness that is actually foolhardiness and a boldness that wisely goes into unknown territory: in our case, life in the time of the virus.

Christians, this distinction matters as much for us an anybody else.

The foolhardly dare God to protect them and offset their rebellion and ignorance as they foolishly do unnecessary things at tremendous cost to others. The lovingly bold trust God to protect them as they thoughtfully do what must be done, even at tremendous risk or cost to themselves.

The foolhardy “tempt God” by ignoring the practical wisdom and self-restraint He has given to all about so as to make the problem better, not worse. The lovingly bold first observe every protocol they can as a way of loving their neighbor; when they must go toward the virus, they do, trusting God while knowing they have done what they can to convey health and life, not sickness and death.

The lovingly bold – because they are wise - will wash their hands as the prepare to be the hands of Jesus

The lovingly bold – because they are wise - will guard their steps in the ordinary course of the day so they are healthy enough to take life to others when they are called to be the feet of Jesus.

The lovingly bold – because they are wise -  will ‘guard their hearts and minds’ through Scripture, prayer, and obedience so that they are prepared to represent the heart and mind of Jesus everywhere they go and whatever situation they are in, whether sheltering in place at home with family that might be getting on their last nerve, going to essential jobs, or carefully helping those who cannot help themselves.

So be bold – as long as you are wise, loving, prayerful, careful, and doing all that you can to take health and life with you. In these times, it takes all of those things to be a faithful presence that spread the life in more ways than one.


Here's the thing about bravery during a plague: it's not just about you. It's about those who come in contact with you. I can have no fear whatsoever about getting sick - I may even be supernaturally protected by God such that I don't get sick - but I could carry that sickness to those who can get sick and even die.

This is why if someone really is like a Luther or a Spurgeon (both of whom miraculously did not get sick or die while ministering very close to the victims of plague), love demands quarantine; that is, they accept that one of the burdens of caring for the sick is distancing themselves from the healthy. We see medical workers doing this now; how could Christians do any less?

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