[Note: this is an audio transcript (almost word-for-word) of the Podcast episode of the same name. If you’d like to listen to that, look for “Discipleship DNA with Brian La Croix” on your favorite podcast platform, including Anchor, iTunes, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. This episode and the following are not my usual format for blogs. I will return to that format with the post following Part 2]

Hello! I hope you’re doing well in the midst of our pandemic isolation.

Just got back from Georgia. Was self-quarantined, so was there almost 4 weeks instead of the originally planned 2 weeks. So I got to spend extra time with my daughter’s family, including my two grandkids.

This is the first full episode of this podcast, and I have to warn you it might seem a little heavy-handed as I discuss following and reflecting Jesus during this pandemic and why it’s something we need to take seriously as we interact with people. The follow-up podcast to this will be more positive, as I talk more about what it looks like to reflect Jesus during a time of crisis.

Like you, I’ve been monitoring the situation globally and around the US, and while we pray that this current crisis will be relatively short-lived, we understand that this is not going away in the very near future.

Schools are closed around the country, with many being closed for the rest of this current school year, which is the case here in South Dakota.

Restaurants and other businesses are either closed or offering only carry-out, delivery, or any of a number of other “touchless” options for people to get what they need.

Grocery stores struggle to keep up with the demand of basic household supplies and food as families stock up in an effort to avoid going out in public.

Obviously none of this is news to you.

The coronavirus has caused a number of Christians to react in various ways, and that’s what we’ll talk about today.

You are no doubt aware that there are generally two camps in the Christian response to the pandemic.

One camp says that we need to follow the guidelines laid out by the Centers of Disease Control and various government agencies discouraging large gatherings – and in many cases, asking churches to temporarily stop holding worship services on location and focusing on on-line services.

The other camp says that we should not give up meeting together but rather trust God to take care of us as we worship together. They believe that God will protect or heal any who would be infected by the virus. Some in this camp believe that this is not really an issue of health and well-being, but instead, it’s an attempt by the government to control or even eliminate religious gatherings in the US, and may be part of a global conspiracy to form a one-world government to eliminate the Christian church altogether.

Let me say right upfront that I do NOT believe that to be the case, at least not right now.

I am in the camp that says we should listen and be safe, and let me give you three reasons why:

The first reason is that there is absolutely no argument that this virus is real and is literally killing tens of thousands of people around the globe. As I’m putting this together on the afternoon of April 6, 2020, just under 1.3 million cases have been diagnosed worldwide. The death toll worldwide is just under 71,000. The total positive cases in the US is over a third of a million. Total deaths in the US total just under 10,000, an increase of over 7,000 in just the last 6 days.

This is real, folks.

The second reason I’m in the first camp is that based on the what I just cited about the spread of this horrible virus, it is UNLOVING to expose yourself and others when NOT doing so is so simple.

Let me emphasize this here for a while.

Just after giving us the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus said that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. In response to the question as to the greatest commandments, He said that as well as loving God with everything we have, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.

The fact is, it’s not about you. It’s about others – many of whom have compromised immune systems or otherwise have health issues that make them a risk for contracting the virus, which – have I mentioned? – has killed over 71,000 people worldwide.

So I have a question for you: if you were one of the health-compromised individuals at risk of dying from this virus, wouldn’t you want others to stay away from you? The correct answer is yes. To say otherwise is to put your pride ahead of the best interests of others, or to engage in a presumptuous faith that depends on a theology that twists Scripture to say that God will shield us from all harm, while in fact, God makes no such promises in all of Scripture.

So at best it is irresponsible to, in a very real sense, order God to fulfill a promise He does not make for protection, and dangerous at worst – since again, people are dying.

This is not loving – and to intentionally pursue this course of action is in direct violation of Jesus’ command to love one another as you love yourself.

CAN God protect every believer from this? Yup. But again, nothing in Scripture promises or guarantees that He WILL.

Let me share 2 quotes from Martin Luther, written while the Bubonic Plague was ravaging Europe in 1527:

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.

He continues the statement with what I see as a biblically based faith about what could happen:

If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

The second quote is also from 1527:

“It is… a suicide in God’s eyes [and] shameful for a person to pay no heed to his own body and to fail to protect it against the plague the best he is able, and then to infect and poison others who might have remained alive if he had taken care of his body as he should have. He is thus responsible before God for his neighbors death and is a murderer many times over.”

These are hard words, but ones we need to heed.

The third reason I’m in the camp of caution is that these are TEMPORARY measures designed to keep us safe.

In the second camp I mentioned, I see people saying that this whole thing is just a government conspiracy meant to destroy the Christian church by keeping it from meeting.

However, there is a difference between persecution and protection. Persecution is bent on destruction of the Church of Jesus. The measures taken by the government are meant to protect everyone – including the Church of Jesus.

And let me add this: even if it turns out that this was all a big government hoax designed to persecute the church of Jesus, then it’s still okay.

Jesus said persecutions would come, and in fact, the church has been persecuted in various parts of the world from day 1. Jesus is in control, and He will handle it. We do our part by being faithful to Him in obedience, loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves, trusting Him to take care of all the other stuff.

Jesus said to expect such things and not to worry, because He has it under control. So how about you lay aside the panic and look at how you can reflect Jesus well to those around you in the midst of all this?

You might have no problem with the sickness. But you might carry it to someone who can’t handle it. How could you handle knowing that you, by your disregard for their safety, were the cause of their suffering or death?

Personally I believe these people are not just courting sickness and death for themselves, but for others as well – in direct disobedience to Jesus.

So put me in the camp that says social distancing and the TEMPORARY suspension of worship gatherings is a good thing.

I apologize if I seem maybe a little harsh about this. But this is too important of an issue to take lightly.

Folks, I don’t know why God allowed this virus to spread and kill like it has. Some feel it’s a judgment from Him. I don’t know and I don’t care to speculate on it.

What I DO know is that we are in the midst of a time where we can demonstrate the love of Jesus for those who are vulnerable to this illness.

Following Jesus in a pandemic means not presuming on God’s protection which He did not promise, but rather, obeying Jesus’ command to love one another as ourselves.

So stay home. Help us defeat this thing by taking away its fuel – other people, keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe.

Reach out through the phone, the internet, and letters. Help the vulnerable by picking up and dropping off groceries and other necessities in ways that minimize contact that can spread the virus. Pray that God brings an end to this pandemic sooner than later.

Look for ways to serve others, especially the elderly and families with small children.

Trust that God will be honored even in the midst of it. And pray that God would show YOU how to best serve Him and others during this time of crisis.

Thanks for listening.

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