It’s no secret the world is in shambles right now. With the recent pandemic of COVID-19, entire countries, governments and cooperations are reeling from the single most defining factor of our generation. COVID has shut nearly everything down, placing a hold on the economy, on sports and on our very lives. However, I don’t need to list everything COVID-19 has impacted for you. Both the helpful and terrible part of a global catastrophe is we’re all in this together. You already know everything it’s affected; you’re living it.
This being said, something I’ve found interesting over these last few weeks is how some Christians have responded to the pandemic. I’ve read articles and watched videos about Christians refusing to shut down their church gatherings, protesting social distancing guidelines and anticipating returning to a regular church service before health professionals have a safe grip on proper containment measures for COVID.
To be clear, Christians are not alone in some of these beliefs. People of all spiritual stances—even including atheism—have shared similar thoughts during the current situation. While generalities do exist, you will find people from every background on various sides of the aisle no matter the topic.
However, as I myself am a follower of Jesus surrounded by fellow believers and fairly aware of circumstances within the “big C” U.S. Church, I would like to address this writing specifically to American Christians.
In light of the current COVID-19 situation, it can be easy for Christians to fall into assumptions that the Church is under attack, beliefs are being compromised or Christians are being discriminated against. These presumptions do come from a place of real fear for a lot of Christians Americans. In the United States, we (particularly White Christians) cling desperately to our core cultural view that this is the “Land of the Free.” Oftentimes, if anything—anything at all—appears to even slightly hinder this vague notion, we immediately go on the defensive, guns blazing.
Now, I’m not here to address all of the ideological systems within U.S. culture. I’ll save those for another day and another article. However, what I do want to share is an emphatic, compassionate call to Christians to lay down their arms and instead open their palms in order to listen and receive.
Christian, your home is not the church building. Your home is not a gathering of people. It’s not down the street, it’s not the town you grew up in, it’s not even in this world. Your true home is with your Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. And if this is the truth, why do you cling so desperately to a home which is fleeting anyways?
In the midst of COVID, we run frantically around, acting out of anger and fear towards our fellow neighbors, demanding our church buildings be opened so we can gather as we please. We care little for those on the front lines, for those suffering in the middle of the pandemic, for those whose very lives are lost. Instead, we fear losing our own presumed rights, and demand we get them back.
Christian, listen closely when I say this: your only right is to death itself. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As sinners, our true birthright is death. Yet God, in His great mercy, grants us eternal life in Heaven through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. So if we deserve death, why do we behave like we somehow deserve more?
God gave us His Church as a gift, and He loves His Church like a husband loves his bride. But His Church is so much more than a building; it’s a community of believers supporting one another, loving one another and following Jesus together. During this pandemic, I’ve come to realize two important takeaways about community.
1. Community is important.
There’s not a doubt in mind about the value in community. In fact, the Apostle Paul likens community to being one single body: “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:4-5). Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Colossians 3:13 states, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Community isn’t necessarily an option for Christians; it’s more of a command. Throughout the entirety of Scripture, we see the emphasis God places on being in community with fellow believers. Personally, I don’t know where I would be without the community around me. Surrounding yourself with fellow Christians is immensely valuable; they can consistently point you back to Jesus, encourage you and challenge you when you fall away.
2. Community is not in the church building.
All this being said, community is also not found in a church building. Just ask the Christians around the world who are actually persecuted for their beliefs, who have to meet in the dead of night at a remote location through a communicated password at the risk of theirs and their families’ lives. While a church building is an incredible blessing from the Lord and extremely useful for gathering people, it means absolutely nothing to an eternal perspective. You know what does mean something? The souls who gather there.
Community isn’t found in four walls of a building; community is found in small groups huddled together in prayer outside a hospital room waiting for the results of a patient with COVID-19. Community is found in a note passed to a neighbor letting them know you’re there if they need anything. Right now, community is found on a Bible study Zoom call with 20 people in their individual houses, seeking the Scriptures together from miles apart. That’s where community is.
Christian, your home is not the church building. Your home is in Jesus. Instead of using this time to behave fearfully, selfishly or aggressively, let’s use this time to share the light of Jesus with the world. Currently, the world’s idols crumble around us. The economy is unstable, people’s jobs are skeptical and their health is uncertain. But what is sure is the absolute peace and truth found in Jesus Christ.
With Him, I don’t have to worry about losing my job, because I know He will provide. Matthew 6:26 says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” I don’t fear getting sick, because Philippians 1:21 states: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” In fact, I don’t have to feel anxious about anything at all, because I know: “… The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Now is the perfect time to share the joy of Jesus Christ with others. It is not the time to run fearfully and protect what little we can call our own in this world. Author C.S. Lewis once said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” Christian, the Church is not your home. You were made for another world. Let’s start acting like it.