--Pastor Jamey Nichols
With many communities reopening, we see that no coronavirus gets the last word. In a social world, social shutdown is necessarily impermanent. And, among the most vulnerable members of our population, we watch as our senior citizens speak with words and actions, “I’m done with this. I would rather take my chances against the virus than be shut in my home without social contact.” In situations of fear and in times of loss, by our very nature humans pull together for strength. Isolating ourselves—even when it is in the hopes of minimizing contagion—is an unnatural response. Nonetheless, we have implemented various degrees of precaution and these are nearing the end of their usefulness.
Even as many parts of the country emerge from lockdown, fear remains pervasive. “How do we know it will still be safe?” and “What if there’s another wave?” and “I would never want to do anything to bring harm to another person.” These sorts of concerns find their basis in the unknown. This is where our faith makes all the difference.
I cannot mince words when I say that I have loathed the general media since mid-March. The spate of yellow journalism has disgusted me because good information is essential for sound decision-making. I could give countless examples of deplorable reporting. However, cursing the darkness for being dark achieves nothing, and media analysis is not my calling. What I am hoping to convey is that faith is so much richer and more beautiful than secularists make it out to be. It is certainly more thoughtful. Despite snarky caricatures that faith in God is inseparable from reckless endangerment, a biblical definition of faith mitigates fear and does so without careless risk taking. I have heard it said more than once that churches intent on gathering will end up killing people because they stupidly believe that faith in an invisible God will protect them. It is added that such people are science-deniers and it is implied they are reckless and immoral.
By its very nature, faith includes that for which we hope. It is something unseen. It involves degrees of certainty in something or someone. Our certainty can vary from unflappable certainty to nervous uncertainty. Consider faith in the surgeon in whose hands you willfully place your life. Certainty may vary, and yet millions still show up for pre-op. There is no guarantee that the surgery will make things better and no guarantee you will not die on the operating table. All that is available are varying degrees of risk, beliefs in the available data, trust in the doctors/nurses, and hope for a blessed outcome.
The body of Christ is just that, a body. As Paul writes in 1 Cor. 12, each member is a needful part. During the shut-down the body has been dismembered. The hand is in Stanton, the eye is in Sheridan, the foot is Sidney, and so on. Even though we have a semblance of connectedness electronically, it isn’t close to how it’s meant to be. Nearly a dozen times in 1 Corinthians, Paul writes of the church coming together. He writes in 3:17 that together we are God’s temple. “But what about during a pandemic?” we all question. I say, “By faith, God’s people can figure it out.” Just like any careful thinker we assess the risk by the available data, trust our prophylactic methods, and hope for a blessed outcome. These steps are common to numerous ventures in life, and there is no such thing as risk-free living. The only question each must answer is how much risk is reasonable. We buckle our seatbelts and pull onto the highway. Life equals risk. Broken people meet broken people at the marriage altar of commitment. Life equals risk. We start businesses with hope. We take out mortgages trusting uninterrupted income. We ingest chemicals based on medical recommendations. Living life under normal conditions is dangerous. In a pandemic, it’s not so different. As I talked about a couple months ago, eventually the groundhog comes out of his hole. People will emerge at different times and in different ways. Church has resumed. You are all welcome to come as you are ready. We gather in faith. We take reasonable precautions. There will never be such a thing as zero risk. There will always be such a thing as faith.