How shall we then live?

Be very careful Scripture

By Heather Walton

I am continually surprised by the comments I’m seeing on social media and in the news, regarding this outbreak of coronavirus. I completely understand feeling frustrated by having to stay at home, not being able to attend church, having to suddenly “homeschool” children of various ages, and facing possible financial ruin. These are all huge challenges.

However, when hundreds of people are dying in Italy in one day, and our governing authorities and medical professionals are telling us we need to stay home for the good of everyone, it baffles me that people don’t heed the warnings. A few weeks ago, I too thought this was overblown. I simply lacked understanding. As a nation, we were going along, business as usual. There were murmurs of this potential threat, but honestly, I was oblivious. Today, though, how can anyone be oblivious?

It concerns me to hear Christians say they aren’t going to obey the government. In Romans 13, we are told to obey the governing authorities. What kind of a witness is it for us to blatantly defy the government? It disturbs me that some people are adamant that we meet in person in order to fulfill Biblical commands, and therefore asserting our rights to meet. What about loving one another, being living sacrifices, denying ourselves, and living quiet lives among the unbelievers (Matthew 16, John 13, Romans 12-13, 1 Thessalonians 4)?

Psalm 91 is a wonderful comfort, and I have read it multiple times, especially in the past week. It upsets me, though, that some people are using this beautiful passage to justify meeting or going about their business as usual, because they believe God has promised that believers are protected from the coronavirus. I’m not saying that everyone who cites or shares this verse feels that way, but I’ve definitely seen it used to justify negligence. Even if no believer were to contract the virus or to die from it, isn’t it possible that a believer could carry it to an unbeliever?

What kind of witness is it to non-Christians that so many Christians deny that this virus is as destructive as it is, or are even willing to endanger others simply because of their rights? I remember a teacher in grade school saying that our rights end where our neighbors’ rights begin. So if I were healthy and I decided to just exercise my rights, regardless of the fact that it could compromise my neighbors’ health, would I be acting in a Godly way? Of course not!

Another argument I hear is that we shouldn’t live in fear. I agree completely! Why is it, then, that people are unwilling to protect their health and their neighbors’ health because they are afraid it will harm the economy, and specifically because they are concerned about their own financial status? Isn’t that giving in to fear? As someone who has struggled with a variety of health issues, I can tell you that I’d rather have my health than to have money in the bank. More than that, I’d rather have my loved ones’ health than financial security. Don’t most people feel that way?

Medical professionals continually tell us that, if we don’t follow the guidelines given out by the government, we are going to be in for greater sickness and death rates, longer time of having things shut down, and perhaps even forced confinement at home. Is that what we want? I don’t think so. However, what we say we want seems to be at odds with our actions. If we want this to end sooner and elicit fewer casualties, we need to submit to the governing authorities.

Better yet, brothers and sisters in Christ, rather than bemoaning the fact that we can’t be at church, let’s joyfully be the church! The church is not a building. We can assemble together online, and we can worship as households. Even more importantly, we can worship best by serving one another in the name of Jesus Christ.

In John 4, Jesus stopped in Samaria at a well, and he asked a woman for a drink of water. She proceeded to engage Him in a theological discussion about where to properly worship God. Jesus answered her essentially like this: “Woman, you’re asking the wrong question! It’s not about where you worship. It’s about how you worship. True believers worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:22-24, author’s paraphrase). Spirit and truth — neither is a physical thing, and neither can be contained in a physical building. Church, wake up! Stop being legalistic and demanding! It’s time for the church in America to take advantage of the time we’re living in and the situation at hand. Many are already doing this, but if you’re one of the holdouts who is bellyaching about what you can’t do, it’s time to consider what the Holy Spirit may be calling you to do right now. We are called to make the most of every opportunity, to redeem the time, to be wise, and to understand the Lord’s will, because we are living in dark times (Ephesians 5:14-17).

A few weeks ago, I hadn’t given the coronavirus more than a few minutes thought. Right now I’m sitting at home, unable even to go out and practice social distancing at the grocery store, because I’m waiting for the results of a test. According to the medical professionals, it will take a week to get the results. I wish I would get the results sooner than that, and so do a lot of people I’ve been in contact with, but perhaps the Lord is using this whole situation to create patience in many people, myself included. Because I’m not feeling great and I’m contagious, I may not be able to do the same things to serve others that I wish I could, but I’m trying to do what I can from right here on my couch. I hope that my perspective helps people.

So, if you’re a believer, here’s my challenge to you: What can you do today, in your present circumstances, to bless others, to be the church, to fulfill the Great Commission, and to advance the Gospel? If you’re not a believer, consider that God may be using current events to get your attention. This world is temporary and flawed, but God has something eternal and perfect for everyone who submits to His Lordship. Consider turning your life, your health, your finances, and your eternity over to Him today. And here’s my challenge to everyone: Let’s evaluate how we can live, making the most of our time and circumstances, that we may emerge better people when it’s once again time for social closeness.

 

COVID-19: Has it changed the world?

Corona Doctor Office PicBy Heather Walton

A week ago at this time I honestly wondered what all the hype was about. I questioned whether people were overreacting. Later that evening, after hearing from the president and the local school superintendent, and learning that our local megachurch was closing, I began to reconsider my perspective.

I think most of us have been impacted in some way by this crisis. At minimum, most of us have had some change to our routines and give up our freedom to go where we want. It seems a bit surreal for many. Depending on your perspective, you could be stir crazy, frustrated, skeptical, anxious, relieved, refreshed, or maybe all of these things in the same day! And if you have children, they may be struggling too, especially if their routines have been majorly disrupted.

As a homeschooler and as one who works from home, my family’s life has not been as disrupted as many people’s have. We have had changes though: My husband is a pastor, so a family whose lives are intertwined with church, that aspect has looked very different. He also works for the school system, so he’s been home this week, which I have found refreshing. I also have moved my regular students and my tutoring clients to an online platform, rather than having them come into my home.

The biggest issue for me has been that I personally have been sick for the past few days. Today I developed a fever, so my doctor sent me for COVID-19 testing. They say it will be a week or so before I get the results. A week ago, getting sick with this virus was the furthest thing from my mind.

While all of this is unexpected and somewhat unsettling, I don’t think the world has actually changed. Yes, it feels different, but I think that’s largely because, a week ago, it felt like we were in control, and today not so much. The truth is, though, that control is an illusion, at least as far as we’re concerned. However, God is always on His throne and in control of the universe — always. Nothing occurs that He doesn’t allow. And nothing catches Him by surprise.

No, I don’t think the world has changed. I think it has been exposed for what it is: a temporary, unpredictable home. It hasn’t changed, but perhaps we can change as a result of this revelation. Perhaps we can change for the better. Maybe we can value relationships more fully, worship God more fervently, serve our neighbors more intentionally, worry less, and simply live the life God has graciously allowed us to live, for however long that will be. Most importantly, maybe we will consider the fact that this home truly is temporary, and therefore prepare for our eternal home by accepting Christ as Lord and following Him, who has control of everything, rather than the crowd, which truly has control of nothing.

Coronavirus: How Seriously Should We Take It?

1 Cor 13 on WallBy Heather Walton

I believe in following the requests of our governing officials, as long as they don’t ask us to go against Scriptural commands or principles (Mark 12:17; Romans 13:1-7). I also believe in not giving in to fear (Joshua 1:9; Psalm 23:4; Isaiah 41:10; Philippians 4:6-7, etc.). In this time of heightened health sensitivity due to COVID-19, my approach, both as a community member and a community leader, has been to follow the direction of our governing officials. Since the seriousness of the situation began to become clear, I have not attended any large gatherings, and as director of a para-church organization, I have worked with our board to cancel all events and meetings for at least the next three weeks. However, I also have conducted the rest of my life as normal, attending smaller meetings, going to the grocery store, and hosting people in my home.

I have watched as people have given in to fear or greed, buying ridiculous amounts of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and bottled water. I have witnessed others making light of the situation, posting insensitive memes or flaunting how they really don’t care because they aren’t giving into fear or they aren’t at risk. Still others are more worried about the effect on the economy than on people’s health. Really I was taking it all in as more of an observer than anything else, but I have to admit I was skeptical.

Until last night …

At around 10 p.m., I suddenly started coughing. Suddenly. No warning. Before that, I had felt great. A few days ago I had blood work, and all of it was good.

Overnight the cough got worse, and now I have a sore throat and chest pain. No fever, though. I’ve consulted with a health provider online and they just want me to stay at home. They are having to be very careful about whom they test, as there are a limited number of tests available. There are so many things going around that it’s likely I just have a regular cold.

Am I worried? No, not about myself. But I do think of all the people I’ve come into contact with during the last 7 days. I have been around multiple people over 60, and I’ve been around at least one immune-compromised person. I’ve also been around an unknown number of people who will be around others over 60 or with immune challenges. This concerns me.

I probably don’t have coronavirus. Nevertheless, this has all gotten me thinking. I would hate to be oblivious to the need for caution, and because I personally didn’t think it was a big deal, to have caused problems for someone else who can’t handle getting sick. I know there are sicknesses going around all the time, but this one seems to be more contagious and more problematic to specific populations.

I encourage you, even if you’re as healthy as can be, to avoid unnecessary contact with others. I fully believe God determines our times and places and that He remains on His throne and in control of the universe. I also know He calls us to be considerate of others, even when it inconveniences us (Philippians 2:3; John 15:13). A few days ago, I didn’t understand what all the hype was about. Now, whether or not I have COVID-19, I more fully understand the importance of doing our best not to spread it.

I also encourage you to find creative and practical ways to support those impacted economically by this crisis. The effects are potentially serious for many; as one who earns money by being consistently in contact with other people, I understand this.

I believe the answer to this and to every situation is love, because “perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18),”  “is not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5),” “always protects (1 Corinthians 13:7),” and “does no harm to a neighbor (Romans 13:9-10).” So please don’t join in the panic, and don’t buy unnecessary amounts of supplies, therefore depriving others of those same necessities. Please consider your reasons for doing business as usual. And please consider those vulnerable people with whom you may not normally even cross paths. And in all things, prayerfully consider what is the most loving choice.

(Author’s Note: Here is an article that lays out the risks, from a physician’s point of view, better than anything else I’ve seen so far.)

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