The Church, the Government, and the Coronavirus

The Church, the Government, and the Coronavirus

     As a deadly virus has swept through several countries and is now rapidly engulfing our own, governors across the nation are issuing varying degrees of "stay at home" or "shelter in place" orders. These orders are intended to protect the public and keep the virus from spreading, or at least slow its pace. Every one of these orders require all non-essential businesses, meetings, activities, and travel to be stopped so the virus also can be stopped. The first few of these orders, though they sought to identify what was essential and what was not, skirted the issue of things like churches in their definitions. In Idaho, where I live, several "churches" volunteered to close their doors before the governor ever issued his order. To my knowledge, Idaho was the first to specifically mention churches in its first draft. Many churches have begun offering "online-meetings" where attendants can listen in or even participate in the classes from their homes. There are those who call churches that refuse to heed the governor's orders irresponsible, reckless, or dangerous, while still others all but call them terrorists for endangering not only themselves, but also the entire community in which they live. I would like to ask, and answer, a simple question: What does the Bible say about the situation?

     Now, as I'm sure most people who might be reading this article already know, the Bible does not mention the coronavirus, America, its governors, or its people, so we cannot expect our answer to be so simple as, "See it says right here, when the coronavirus comes around meet or don't meet". However, we will find that there are some passages that are astonishingly similar to that absurd example. For starters, I would urge you to read Deuteronomy 28 in its entirety. Go ahead and do that now, I'll wait.

     Done? Normally, I include all the scriptures I use in the body of the text, but that's a very lengthy read and we'll be referencing some of it later so I hope you're not trying to skimp out on me and that you've actually read it. I'm trusting you here. Now, in Amos chapter 4: 1-5 it is written, "Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink. The Lord God hath sworn by his holiness, that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks. And ye shall go out at the breaches, every cow at that which is before her; and ye shall cast them into the palace, saith the Lord. Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years: And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord God." Remember what was said in Deut 28: 15? "But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee". These first five verses in Amos 4 is God's indictment on Israel that they have not kept the commandments and they have departed from everything God has told them to do.

     Read on in Amos 4: 6-8, "And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord. And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered. So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord." God sent disasters just as he had promised in an attempt to wake Israel up and cause them to return to Him. Deut 28: 23-24 "And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron. The Lord shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed."God controls the rain and He took it away at the time of harvest leaving them bereft of food. God goes on to say, in verse 9, that He sent mildew and worms to destroy whatever crops managed to survive the drought so that there would be nothing for the people. Does this sound a little like what God had done to Egypt to you? It does to me. He diseased the cattle, insulting their gods and taking away their food. He rained fire and hail on their crops and herds killing virtually everything in their fields, and sent the locusts to clean up whatever dared live through all that so there would be absolutely nothing for Egypt to eat. Of course, that time, God had spared the land of Goshen so all the children of Israel were separated from the misery and starvation of the rest of Egypt.

     Now we're getting to the part that sounds a little more like coronavirus. Amos 4: 10-13 reads, "I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord. I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord. Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The Lord, The God of hosts, is his name." And its counterpart in Deut 28: 21-22, "The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it. The Lord shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish." He continues in 27-28, "The Lord will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed. The Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart". God has always used things like natural disasters to call the nations to repentance. I am not saying that this is a judgment from God on the nations and that there is no other explanation for what is happening around the world right now. What I am saying is, turning away from God and His commandments has never served to end a disaster any sooner.

     Consider the deal God tried to cut with the people in the days of Jeremiah. Jer 17: 21-27, "Thus saith the Lord; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction. And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the Lord, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein; Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain for ever.And they shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the Lord. But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched." So basically, God says if you keep the sabbath day, I will stay Nebuchadnezzar's hand and he will not come into Jerusalem, but if you refuse to keep the sabbath, he'll burn the city to the ground. As we know from the text, they refused and Nebuchadnezzar burned the city to the ground. So what will we do? Will we meet as God has directed and possibly stop the plague? Or will we reject God's commands and try to stop it ourselves without His help? Before I offer a few more passages for consideration, I would like to take a few moments to look a little closer at Idaho's Department of Health and Welfare Order to Self-Isolate (03/25/2020).

Please read this Order carefully. Violation of or failure to comply with this order could constitute a misdemeanor punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both. Idaho Code: 56-1003(7)(c).

6. All people in Idaho shall immediately cease hosting or participating in all public and private gatherings and multi-person activities for social, spiritual, and recreational purposes, regardless of the number of the number of people involved, except as specifically identified in Section 8. Such activity includes, but is not limited to, community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based, or sporting events; parades; concerts; festivals; conventions; fundraisers; and similar activities. This prohibition also applies to planned wedding and funeral events, with the exception that funerals are permitted so long as they occur outside and comply with the Social Distancing Requirements as defined in Section 8.j.

If you read section 8 in its entirety you begin to wonder what, aside from churches, are considered non-essential. I grabbed only a small sampling so you can see what exactly takes precedence over churches in the governments eyes.

8. Definitions and exemptions

    f.   For the purpose of this order, "Essential Businesses" means:

         i.     Healthcare Operations and Essential Infrastructure;

        ii.    Grocery stores, certified farmers' markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks, convenient stores, and other establishments engaged in retail sale of canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supply, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, liquor, beer, and wine and any other household consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products). This includes stores that sell groceries and also sell other non-grocery products, and products necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences;

     Jesus had this to say in Matt 5: 6, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."The governor says that the grocery stores are essential. The liquor, beer, and wine merchants are essential. But those faith-based gatherings are hot spots for death and disease. When churches have their own rock band, giant community potlucks, motivational speeches bereft of Biblical words or even teachings, and the vast majority of "christians" couldn't quote a single scripture if their lives depended on it, is it any wonder the governor puts them in the same category as parades, concerts, festivals, and fundraisers? The Church is not about entertainment. Hear the words of the Hebrew writer in Heb 10: 23-27, "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." How do we consider how to stimulate one another to love and good works by meeting from the comfort of our homes? What does the phrase, "And so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" mean to you? And what is the sin in verse 26 that leaves us with nothing but fear of judgment from God? If you hunger or thirst after righteousness, our doors are open.

     If grocery stores and food banks are to be left open for the needs of the body, I believe a sound argument can be made that the closing of our spiritual grocery store against the needs of the soul is unconstitutional. But if we get arrested, look at the bright side, we're still meeting. Jesus also had this to say in Matt 6: 25-34, "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." It is worth noting that the Church is the Kingdom of God and only by putting the Church first, can we have our needs supplied. God says, "The Church is essential." So if we lose that battle in court, we win it in Heaven; no governor has authority to outvote or overrule God Almighty. As to what to say when police officers come knocking on our doors, the apostles have given us two excellent answers. But, first, I recommend inviting them to join you in worship of the only one who is capable of halting the virus in its tracks. If that doesn't work I invite you to try one of these, Acts 4: 18-20, "And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." Which is right, listen to your governor or to God? You be the judge. And Acts 5: 27-29, "And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men." What a simple answer. God says meet, the governor says don't meet, the Christian says, "We ought to obey God rather than men." If wine outlets and liquor stores are essential, Churches cannot and will not be silenced.

-By Lee Morrison