Perhaps the title of this posting got your attention, particularly in these days of the COVID-19 virus. But this message is not what it might seem.
It could be that God is calling us to stay home instead of gathering for public worship or other church gatherings in these days of high stress due to medical and financial threats. As I’ve been thinking and praying about this situation, four things came to mind:
1. Demographically, churches tend to have lots of poor and older people, including people who are dealing with serious chronic medical issues, who are drawn to the fellowship of the faithful because of the truth and mercy they find from Jesus and His Body. But this demographic is precisely the people who are most vulnerable to the virus. And, since our lack of virus testing results in our not knowing who has it, God might be calling us home in order to protect those whom our society might consider “the least of these”, but who are, in fact, Jesus’ brothers and sisters, and ours. Observing proper hygiene can certainly help slow the disease spread, but “social distancing” for a season is clearly most effective at protecting the vulnerable.
2. In South Korea, many are blaming a religious sect for making the spread of the virus worse, since 63% of the virus cases there are related to infected sect members. In The West, as the reputation of the Church has been on the decline due to the work of the enemy, combined with serious sin in our ranks, perhaps a decision to stay home in these days of uncertainty could protect the church from further accusation, and would give the devil no further opportunity to besmirch the Body of Christ by blaming us for spreading the disease. Staying home for the sake of others could put the lie to the enemy’s lies about Jesus and His People.
3. Many in the medical community here are pointing to the possibility that an exponential increase in the number of virus cases could overwhelm our medical system, as has happened in Italy. Avoiding large group church contacts now could help #FlattenTheCurve, the statistical chart visualizing a slower speed of disease transmission so as to not overwhelm the health system up front and deprive others of life-saving medical care. Our depriving ourselves of in-person spiritual support now could protect the lives of many in need later.
4. The church in its first three centuries grew exponentially (like an out-of-control virus!) primarily because of the truthfulness and mercy of its members living amongst of many non-believers. As Christians got thrown out of the Holy Land, and were exiled to the far-flung corners of the Roman Empire, living in tenements literally in the midst of many others, their loving way of life drew many to Jesus. In The West, many of us live as if we don’t even have neighbors, either across the hall, next door, or across the field. Perhaps God is calling us home in these days, and particularly on weekends, shutting down entertainment venues, including the “spiritual” ones — so that we can get off the bench and get into the action of reaching out in mercy to our anxious neighbors all around us. We can offer God’s mercy in our concern and care and, when possible, our witness to truth, both from the CDC, and from the Scriptures pointing to Jesus Christ.\
Jesus indicated that there is one great commandment, in two parts: love God with all you have, and love neighbor with all you are in Him. In these days as we face decisions on how to do both well, may we look to Him for opportunities to do both simultaneously, such as in a decision to say “yes” to His call to come home.