For the most part, I am inspired by what I see in the church right now. People are being smart, caring, and kind. Two of my students today told me how young people at their church are shopping for the more vulnerable elderly. Some churches are distributing food and others are actually providing testing!
But some are doing things that, frankly, are neither helpful nor biblical. Here are five things I’ve seen churches and pastors do recently in response to Corona virus that were bad ideas. Please…do not…
- Declare that this virus is the judgment of God for the sin of__________. Why is this a bad idea? Because 1) it presumes an awful lot that simply cannot be known, 2) if it were true, then why would those not guilty of that sin be effected, and 3) it reflects poorly on the gospel of grace we are called to preach and embody, particularly toward those suffering from this disease and their families. The fact that God used recognized prophets in Israel to declare the judgment of God on peoples and nations does not mean that such prophetic offices carry over directly into the New Testament church. While the gift of prophecy certainly is one the NT speaks of frequently and favorably, the NT prophetic task centers on the gospel of hope–the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and proclaiming that message. This is why Luke in his citation of Isa. 61 (Luke 4:18-19) stops short of the words “the day of vengeance of our God” and instead ends his quotation mid verse, at “to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” Today, the church is called to preach hope, not despair. Are there times to talk about judgment and hell? Absolutely. But in the midst of a global crisis when bad news is everywhere, maybe we should focus on The Good News!
- Reject the wisdom of experts in science and government. I watched in horror this week as an evangelist declared that it was anti-faith to not come to church. This person was an admitted follower of Kenneth Hagin and the so called “word of faith movement.” And you may have seen the insanity going on at Liberty University, where students, faculty, and staff are expected back to work this week because Jerry Falwell Jr. thinks it will keep students safer by keeping them on campus. Of course, everyone knows that the real motivator is likely money. And when you love money more than people, you make really bad decisions. As the apostle Paul said, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Tim. 6:10).
- Add to the political divide. Ok, I really struggle with this one because every day I see politicians on both sides of the aisle making bad decisions and unable to work together even in the midst of a national crisis and it makes me angry. But as tempted as I am to share that tweet or post or article that shows how inept these people are, I have to stop and ask myself, “what good will it do? Will it help people who are dying of this disease? Will it help me love my neighbor? Will it show that I am a child of God and filled with the fruit of the Spirit?” The answer to all these questions is no. So, lets take this opportunity for the church to truly shine because we have decided to stay above the political fray and be agents of healing rather than causes of division.
- Stoke fear. These are fearful times and people need comfort. Let’s not forget where that comes from and that throughout history the church has demonstrated an unshakeable faith in the goodness of God in the midst of really devastating trials–far worse than the Corona-virus.
- Dole out platitudes and cliches. This is not the time to offer pat answers to people’s deep searching and questions about faith, about God, about pain, about anxiety or any of the other multitude of challenges people are dealing with right now. Sometimes our presence, our silent presence can be our greatest gift to a hurting world. Wisdom will guide us.