Today City International Christian Church, our church, took a decision to close Sunday services for the foreseeable future.
We had been planning for this eventuality for a number of weeks, and today the Prime Minister announced the decision to ban all public gatherings of 100 or more.
We have complied. Not to do so would cause us to break the law.
Why do it?
The incidence of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is growing rapidly. If public meetings go ahead as they always have, it will increase the chances of more people getting sick more quickly. This will result in an overload of hospital facilities as has happened in Italy in recent weeks – causing them to make all sorts of uncomfortable decisions, including not treating some elderly people with the idea that it is less wasteful to treat those who are sure to survive than those who might not. These decisions are wrong in the light of the value that the Lord places on all human life.
To escape that ungodly situation, our government has decided to limit crowds of 100 or more to decrease the incidence of exposure to the disease for a longer time. This will mean that fewer people will get sick at any one time.
We have thought as leaders that we have an obligation to be socially responsible, and protective of all people in our society and church, including the very vulnerable.
In addition, of course, closure is now law and any church who continues to hold services of over 100 will be in breach of the law. This is a different sort of situation to, say, China, where truly evangelical churches are forbidden to meet by law. That has seen the rise of the Underground Church, a movement we applaud and support.
But we are not needing to oppose unjust laws as our brothers and sisters in China do. In fact, we are taking this decision out of love and care for our community, both in and outside the church.
Yes, but doesn’t it show a lack of faith in God to protect us?
I watched some guy on social media who claimed just that. He was quoting Ps 51 and implying that born-again Christians don’t need to be afraid because God will protect them form COVID-19.
It’s true that we should not be afraid. But not to take precautions against a plague like this is just foolishness. It’s like choosing not to vaccinate your child and having them die of a preventable illness because you believed God would protect them. That is just foolishness. God gives medical science to us as a gift. True they sometimes do not act Biblically. But medical science in this case is deciding to protect, which is in the best interests of society.
It is not a lack of faith to take this step. Our faith is truly in God to protect us as he has promised. We don’t need to be afraid. See Isiah 41:10.
We hold services in faith, and we cancel services in faith. All without fear.
You would never drive down the freeway at 200 km/h and call out that “It’s OK! I am breaking the Law, but God will protect me.” That’s foolishness. It is in fact sin. It is doing what the devil tempted Jesus to do when he wanted Him to throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple saying, “God will protect me.”
His reply to Satan? “Do not put the Lord your God to the test!” (Luke 3:12). Was that a lack of faith on the part of Jesus or wisdom?
I think it was wisdom.
So is closing our services in the face of this national threat.
Much blessing
Pastor Ralph