I think it’s safe to say, all of us are concerned about COVID19 and how it has abruptly changed the world around us. Life just isn’t the same, is it? We’re left with a huge pile of uncertainties, making something as trivial as a dinner date impossible to plan.
While these are challenging times for everyone, I can only speak from my own experience, one which other pastors and church leaders might relate to. Each of us are faced with difficult decisions: when to meet, how to meet and how to prepare ahead of time. It’s no simple matter. There’s much to consider and no one I know is making these decisions lightly. Although each of us want the best for God’s people, we have not all reached the same conclusions as to what that is. The big hurdle is the lockdown. Some feel it hurts more than it helps. Others insist the opposite is true. So rather than swing church doors open, we open with caution or not at all.
It’s not just church leaders dealing with these issues. No one is excluded from the conversation. Lockdown has created a social media frenzy with posts and reposts of why we should or should not accept what’s called “the new normal”. A clear line has been drawn and tensions are high. “Stay Home!” is one prevailing message. “Open up!” is the other. It seems we’re at an impasse. Both standpoints raise valid concerns and both are worthy of consideration.
This brings us to the unspoken inner struggle of many pastors today - bringing peace between two sides that are each passionate about their respective positions. This is a whole new ballgame for us. It’s not like settling theological differences between fellow believers. We can disagree on doctrine without passing a virus. That’s not the case with COVID19. There is no safe response and each response matters. How I deal with this virus affects others, and how they deal with it affects me. Sadly, there are no easy answers. Even more sadly, we’re left with a lot of emotionally charged discourse.
The purpose of this article is not to declare which viewpoint is more correct than the other. That would only fuel more division. My hope is to build unity among believers. The sparring I see on social media truly breaks my heart. Clearly, we don’t see eye to eye on the matter, but we can still stand together in love. If we can’t do that, it might be best for church doors to remain closed until we can. I suspect some may stay home regardless. Not for fear of catching a virus, but for fear of seeing someone they disagreed with on Facebook. Based on what I’ve witnessed, it wouldn’t surprise me at all.
Perhaps this might be a good time to review 1 Corinthians 13, often referred to as “the love chapter”. It was written to believers who were also in conflict with each other. The chapter ends with: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
As we face this present pandemic, are you walking in faith? Do others see you as having hope? More importantly, are you showing love, even to those you disagree with, or those intolerant of your views? In times like these, it’s crucial to remember who we are in Christ and how best to represent Him to the world around us. These are dark and difficult times. Let us not put faith, hope and love on lockdown. With these three we can overcome any crisis, even COVID19.