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Letter from Pastor Heath Concerning Coronavirus Sheltering-in-Place
 

A Letter from Pastor Heath

To My Fellow Believers in Jesus Christ,

I want to share my thoughts with you on this virus that seems to not only be panicking the general public, but also causing some division in the body of Christ. Some churches are choosing to cancel Sunday services while others are remaining open. Those that are closing are being criticized online by some as faithless. Some Christians are calling for churches to stand in defiance of this virus because we need to show a panicked world what it means to truly believe in God. Our faith is not proven by simply attending a church service. Our faith is shown in how we live our lives throughout the entire week. The church is not a building that we meet in each week. The church is the people. We are the church every day of the week. We are the church everywhere we go. Faith is proven by the sanctification of each believer by the Holy Spirit and His fruit in their lives. Faith is proven through a life that is conforming to Jesus and showing Him every day to those with whom we come in contact. Here are some points to consider during this pandemic:

1. Faith:
Faith in Jesus Christ does not stop the believer from getting sick. Many faithful believers get the flu and other viruses every year. Many faithful believers get diseases every year. Many faithful believers die each year. The false teachers who teach that if a believer has enough faith, they can have power to overcome sickness is simply not true. The gospel does not make us immune to viruses and diseases. The gospel is about the cleansing of our souls from sin that separates us from a Holy God. Faith is not about the physical body, but about the soul. As the old hymn states… “When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll, Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul! Faith in Christ is not about remaining physically healthy. It pertains to our souls being secure in Christ. Whatever may happen to us, including viruses or diseases, it is always well with our souls.

2. Government:
Government leaders have called for public gatherings to be suspended in some areas while other government leaders are simply requesting people not to gather together. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are called to respect, obey, submit, and pray for our leaders, for this is the will of God.

1 Peter
13
Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

We do not bring a good light on the church if we stand in defiance of our governmental leaders. If their commands are not against Scripture and our submitting to their commands does not require us to go against God’s commands, we are required to submit as good citizens. This is the will of God. But if we, in the name of faith, defy such orders/requests from our leaders just to prove how faithful we are, we are not honoring God.

Romans 13
1
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.

Again, obeying our leaders is what faithful believers do. If our leaders require us to go against the Word of God, we stand in defiance and are willing to pay whatever price. However, canceling services on a few Sundays is not defying God’s Word. Again, we are the church every day of the week, not only on Sunday mornings.

3. Coronavirus:
The Coronavirus is not evil in and of itself. The virus is not a spiritual attack on the church or God’s people. Bible verses that point out that God will protect us from evil is not referencing the Coronavirus or any virus. I have seen many Bible verses posted online about God protecting us from the evil of the Coronavirus. One in particular I have seen posted is Psalm 23.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Context is everything when understanding Scripture. “Evil” here is the demonic — Satan himself. “Evil” is not referencing viruses and diseases. Again, our faith in Jesus Christ does not mean we will not suffer in this life. Faith is not about being free from suffering, but how our faith is shown in suffering. We are called to be wise as serpents in this life, but gentle as doves. Why are some believers criticizing other believers for taking common sense measures during a virus outbreak that has the potential of killing many people? Criticizing other believers online in front of the entire unbelieving world harms the reputation of the Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ far more than canceling a few services on a Sunday morning. The Coronavirus is not an evil we can fight with faith. We can deal with it through faith, but we can not overcome it by faith. The Coronavirus can be dealt with in common sense ways such as not unintentionally spreading it though gatherings of large groups of people.

4. Serve one another, not Criticizing:
Instead of criticizing fellow believers and questioning their faithfulness to Jesus Christ, why don’t we seek to encourage and serve one another? Serving others, especially unbelievers who are fearful, during this pandemic would show our faith in Christ much stronger than standing in defiance of a virus at a Sunday morning service. Call your friends…your neighbors… see what they need. Offer prayer and comfort to those in fear. Share the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Again, we are the church 24/7. Let us use this time to outreach to those who are in need. Let us come together in the love of our Lord without criticizing others for not doing what you think they should.

5. Closing Thoughts:
Finally, this is an opportunity to show an unbelieving world what being a disciple of Jesus Christ is all about. It is not about putting our fellow believers in harms way unnecessarily or putting the general public in harms way by unintentionally spreading this virus. It is a time to show that faith is not about God making us healthy, wealthy, and having your best life now. It is about walking through the valley of the shadow of death and not fearing death. For us, to be absent from the body is to be present with our Lord. Believers in Jesus Christ do not fear death, but at the same time we should not be seeking death. We are called to live for Jesus Christ. There are times we are called to make a stand in this world for God, a stand that could require the loss of all things or even death itself, but I do not believe that it is through this pandemic.

This pandemic is an opportunity to serve others. We can share the truth and hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can show the unbelieving world that we are concerned with the health and safety of the general public. We should not put anyone at risk just to prove how faithful or better we are than someone else. Let’s remain humble before one another. Go to a church service if you feel so convicted. Stay home if you feel so convicted. Cancel a church service or don’t cancel a church service. Whatever God leads you to do, do with all your heart and soul unto Him. But let us stop criticizing one another. Let each one of us esteem the other better than ourselves. Let us take every opportunity, to serve our Lord and others during this pandemic.

In the Love of Jesus Christ,

Pastor Heath
First Baptist Church of Redding