Some churches during this pandemic have continued to gather, limiting the size of their services or enacting other precautionary measures, such as encouraging elderly members and those with compromised immune systems to participate through live-streaming or other online avenues.
Other churches have discontinued public services altogether, opting only for the online platform.
Is one decision more righteous or loving than the other?
Last week, I came across an article that quoted C.S. Lewis on the panic over the atomic bomb that ensued during his day. The author of the article suggested substituting coronavirus for atomic bomb in Lewis's quote. In doing so, the thoughts of C.S. Lewis read like this:
In one way we think a great deal too much of the (atomic bomb) coronavirus. “How are we to live with the threat of the coronavirus?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
That is certainly one way of looking at the current pandemic, but it's not the only way.
I think we have to be very careful as Christians not to judge each other for the different ways we each react to this current pandemic. Some of us are over-reactors and some of us are under-reactors. And each group tends to judge the other for not responding in like manner.
So, in light of the C.S. Lewis quote above where coronavirus was substituted for atomic bomb, I'm going to take Paul's instructions to the Romans and the Corinthians and substitute coronavirus for "food sacrificed to idols." I take this liberty to illustrate the point of the passages, which is how Christians should treat each other when they have differences of opinion on such matters.
14 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may continue life as before the coronavirus, while another person avoids crowds and stays home. 3 Let not the one who doesn't avoid crowds despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who gathers with others, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
5 One person stocks toilet paper and bottled water, while another does not. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who stocks supplies, stocks them to honor of the Lord. The one continues to grocery shop as usual, does so in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who stocks his home, stocks it in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
Okay, now let's do the same thing with Paul's letter to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 8:1-8
Now concerning the coronavirus: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
4 Therefore, as to the coronavirus, we know that “a virus cannot kill us,” and that “it is only God from whom we draw our breath.” 5 For although there may be many viruses on earth—as indeed there are many diseases and many plagues — 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with sickness, venture out into public, and their conscience, being weak, is fill with anxiety. 8 The way you react to the coronavirus and the steps you take to avoid it do not make you a better Christian than those who do not take the same steps as you. And just because you do not fear gathering with others as some do, it does not make you more courageous than those who do not. We are no worse off if we do, and no better off if we do not.
So, we must each do what we think is best for our families, including our church family. And let us not judge each other for our choices.
So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. That's not fatalism. That's reality.
I think we can find extreme positions on both sides. As for our church, we will continue to monitor the community threat levels and make decisions based upon the local risk of transmission. Based upon the chart below, our area is currently a low risk zone, but we will continue to monitor the threat levels and as things change (or if they change) we will take further precautions.
Let us all continue implementing good public health practices without insisting that we all react exactly the same way.