Yesterday, Mike Dewine made a pretty heinous statement about the Church. He accused the gathering church of acting un-Christian and un-loving, because some continue to meet in buildings amidst this global uproar. He accused us of not caring about the world’s health.
Whoa, Nelly! I just feel like this needs addressed.
Now, I know there are plenty of folks who profess to be Christians, but are more like “Sunday morning spectators”, or even worse, those who pretend to be Christians because they think it empowers them to criticize the world and then lash out at anyone they feel justified in condescending. I am not speaking of these people, because honestly, there are plenty of their kind that are going to stand before the judgment seat someday and realize that they never actually knew God. God’s kingdom is a kingdom of proactive love and kindness, compassion and grace. Not performance or self-righteousness.
I am speaking of genuine Christians when I say this: Christians, hands down, are the most loving people I know! I don’t say that lightly, and I don’t say that from a place of only emotion, or from arrogance. I say that because we, who love Jesus, have the Spirit of God living inside of us, who compels us to love. The entire, foundational principle of Christianity is to love God and love our neighbor! Read the Book!
There are plenty of ways we need to grow, and ways we could be tremendously more loving, but we, who walk with Jesus, are learning to walk with Jesus who is, by an eternity’s stone-throw, the most loving of all! The more we learn His heart’s rhythm, the more loving it causes us to become!
So, Mike Dewine’s accusation… well, it made my stomach churn, because I am confident that if he thinks it, others do as well. So, I think this accusation needs addressed head-on.
First of all, we absolutely care about the world’s health crisis. Not only do we care about the health crisis, we care about the panic-crisis. Do you know what my biggest struggle in all of this is? How to love my neighbor. I honestly am not worried about whether or not I get sick… unless it means I could get someone else sick. I get to go to heaven when I die, so no worries here! I am not afraid of going to town… but I avoid it like the plague, because I don’t want to send others reeling into panic and fear, and I don’t want to catch something contagious and transfer it to another. It’s not about me. It’s about you guys.
The hardest thing for me, personally, is to see the fear in the eyes of those I love. That’s the selfish reason I like being home: I don’t have to see the fear in people who my heart races to want to hug and sit with and listen to. I don’t have a lot of coping mechanisms for dealing with people’s pain in respect to social distancing.
We are fighting an invisible enemy! But it’s not just the virus. It’s the fear and isolation. Did you know that kids in orphanages have a substantially higher survival rate if they are simply hugged. Now, I am not saying that we should all go around hugging each other right now, but I am suggesting that our society is in a dangerous way if these social distancing practices don’t die off with the virus, and if we don’t keep our hearts tender towards the actual, literal need for community and connectedness. But I digress. Back to the church.
So, why does the Church still gather (although most are not, at this point), if it’s not out of carelessness or selfishness? Because we believe with our whole hearts that the only way to conquer fear and death and global catastrophes is to seek Christ! I know this doesn’t make a hill o’ beans worth of sense to someone that doesn’t have faith in Him, but to the Christian, we are more confident about His might and majesty than we are about the skin that clings to our bones. We know that if we deny God, at this moment in history, we have no hope to conquer these invisible enemies. Yet, if we seek His face, it may mean the sparing of the entire world! In gathering, we fight an invisible war on behalf of the entire world… which is actually the MOST loving thing we could do.
We also know that obedience to Christ is the ONLY safe and wise place to be. In Hebrews, it says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” We, Christians, know that we must strengthen and be strengthened by each other for battle against fear, death and corona, and that God tells us not to forsake assembling together, especially as we see the day drawing near, meaning as the world gets darker and it seems like the end may be riding the horizon it should drive us into Christian community not away from it.
So the church is figuring out how to gather. Many are gathering behind computer screens, and I am not going to judge whether they are right or wrong for doing so. As long as it is done in love. But some are gathering in person, because it is in their conscience that gathering means getting together in person, and that if we do not fight this battle on our knees and crying out to God with a collective voice, then we have no hope of victory.
Mike Dewine has forgotten something substantial, in his railing accusation against Christians. He has forgotten our God!
I may have mentioned it before, but during the Black Plague, the Christians were the ones who flocked INTO the cities, risking their own lives to tend to their dying neighbors. They knew that life on earth only matters in the scheme of eternity. So they risked their mortality to fight a disease that was mass-slaughtering all those it touched, and they did so, in a life-sacrificing effort to love their neighbor.
I know gathering as a modern day Church pales in comparison to what those 14th century, European Christians were doing, but we also must know that in our own, simple, “still trying to figure out how best to love our neighbor” way, we are doing what we know is a risk to our own lives to seek the only One who we know can rescue the entire world from this present, ominous darkness. Please don’t be quick to judge our motives, unless your judgement is bent towards love, because that’s exactly and only what we are trying to figure out how to do right now… LOVE! That’s the mission statement of the Kingdom of heaven… To love!
Editor’s Note: Just as I finished posting this blog, I received a text message from my husband saying this: “I learned that of all of the communities in the world, the corona virus is spreading the least and slowest among the devout orthodox Jewish community in Israel. The only reason that they can figure out for this is that they have remained adherent the their holy writings of the Old Testament, practicing its teachings even when those outside their faith recommend doing otherwise, including gathering together for prayer. I heard this on the hourly news blurb on Christian radio 95.9 when I was headed to work. This is the effect of the virus on people who observe part of the Scriptures and yet reject their Messiah. Imagine how God desires to look after and bless those who observe the entire Scriptures while worshiping the Messiah!”
After reading this, I suggest that rather than judging those who choose to gather in person during this crisis, we ought to all be flocking into church sanctuaries for refuge!