Acting with Hope in the Pandemic
Dear Redeemer family,
We deeply missed you last Sunday. We will miss seeing you again this Sunday. Our gatherings are precious, and we pray they will resume much sooner than later. At the same time, our Lord has purposed to prolong the COVID-19 pandemic, and we believe it is both wise and loving to continue not meeting for Sunday gatherings or in groups of more than 10, according to the most recent state order.
Our compliance stems not from fear of the government. We must fear God above all other authorities and remain faithful to God when authorities order us to act in ways contrary to Christ. By temporarily restricting all gatherings (not just church gatherings) to 10 or less in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we believe the authorities are acting in the public’s best interest, even if imperfectly. Out of love for our neighbors, especially the elderly and those with an immunodeficiency, we believe we can follow the precautions in good faith without, for example, disobeying Hebrews 10:25 which rebukes those who “have the habit” of not meeting together (i.e., they don’t want to).
Our compliance also does not stem from the fear of COVID-19 or death itself. Satan, like a terrorist, would like to use the fear of death to control people. Indeed, some of the fearmongering and panic over COVID-19 seems indicative of the devil’s work. But Hebrews 2:14 announces that Jesus partook of flesh and blood for this purpose: “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” Therefore, we need not fear COVID-19. At the same time, such assurance does not mean we then run carelessly into danger and unnecessarily expose others to the same. As the church once put it before, valuing image bearers also includes doing what we can to avoid “whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any” (Westminster Larger Catechism, Q136).
With that said, we must also stress that this does not mean the work, or even the worship, of the church has ceased. We might experience temporary setbacks due to COVID-19. We might experience temporary restrictions due to orders by wise health officials. We might experience several more weeks of temporary confinement. But God’s word remains unbound, unrestricted. As we observed from Acts, no obstacle is too great for God’s word. His kingdom marches on. The question is whether we have the spiritual eyes to see it and the willingness to participate in it. In that light, here are some ways to act…
Give thanks to the Lord that his plan will never fail. Adore the Lord for his wisdom and power, which give us confidence that he will work even through a global pandemic to display his glory and rescue his people. Ask the Lord to comfort those who are fearful, not just fearful of COVID-19 but fearful of losing their jobs, fearful of losing their 401K, fearful of not having enough, fearful of what steps to take for their children’s schooling. Pray against temptations toward laziness and inactivity in the church. Pray for opportunities to share the gospel with your neighbor. Pray that leaders respond with wisdom. Pray for the Christ to return and bring renewal and restoration to all things, and for our hopes to be set there as well.
Knowing more will help you reason through these unique days and help you make wise decisions that honor the Lord and serve others well. While not complete, visiting the CDC’s website will provide information about COVID-19 itself. Tarrant County will have its own health updates, and we should give attention to them as well. Further, others have written helpful articles to strengthen the church and help us respond as faithful stewards of these days:
- Theological Reflections on the Pandemic
- Nine Ways to Work Efficiently from Home
- How to Make the Most of Lockdown (Tips from Christians in Italy)
- 25 Hymns to Sing in Troubled Times
Stay ready to serve others.
Needs will persist around you. People may run low on grocery items. Prescriptions will still need to be filled and the person needing them may be at a higher risk than you are. House repairs may come up but an elderly friend does not believe it is wise to run to the hardware store. Perhaps there’s a newborn or another with existing lung problems in your network. Social distancing does not mean we cannot serve one another in very tangible ways. Wash hands, Yes. Keep your distance where possible, Yes. But with these things look for opportunities to serve others. Call your care group members and ask if they have needs or errands you can run for them. Utilize group texts, Facetime, Google Hangout, Zoom, etc. to stay connected and encourage one another in the gospel. Get to know the neighbors on your street, their situation, their fears, their needs, and ask how you can serve them. As elders, we are so thankful to have so many members already offering to serve in these ways.
(re)Build healthy discipleship patterns.
With extra time at home, the temptation could be to veg out on Netflix. Treat the extra time at home as an opportunity to review the various habits of grace, such as bible reading, personal prayer, scripture memory. Recommit yourself to praying with your spouse, if married. If you have children, renew efforts to gather for family worship in the evenings (you can read more about that HERE!). Call a brother or sister and use the opportunity to pray for one another and exhort one another in the word.
Announce the unshakable Hope.
Addressing those persecuted for their faith, the apostle instructs the church to “honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Pet 3:15). COVID-19 is not persecution, but the circumstances will provide opportunities to speak of our hope in the face of uncertainties. If we’re just as panicked as the world, our neighbors will have no reason to ask about our hope. But as we heard last week from Hebrews 6:13-20, we have a sure and steadfast hope grounded in God’s unshakable purpose and secured by Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. We need not panic or grow anxious. Our future is secure in Jesus. Our present wholly rests beneath his care and guidance. We have a hope, and a hope we pray is so compelling in us that others will ask to know it as well. So engage your neighbors when they ask and speak of Christ faithfully.
More could certainly be said. But this is a start as we approach the days ahead with faith and patience, waiting to inherit the promises.
Grace be with you all,
Bret, for the elders