– By Pastor Mark Sage
Every church (and individual) has been trying to weigh all the evidence when making decisions at this time. The churches are determining whether or not to have services – the individual is trying to decide how often to go out and for what purpose. These are important decisions and have wide and varying answers obviously. Whatever decision we make must be weighed and balanced with by several key components – TRUTH, RISK, PRINCIPLE & FAITH.
We must see what the TRUTH is. The truth is that people are sick and dying. The truth is that the Coronavirus is highly contagious. Statistics are constantly changing and be analyzed. The truth is also that far more people are infected that are neither tested nor counted for the statistics which brings the ratio of death to infected to an unknown number. The truth is that the overwhelming majority of people will live after contracting the disease, likely over 99% when this is settled.
But we must weigh the RISK – the risk of becoming infected and even the risk of dying is something that must be looked at. The CDC says concerning those with the Coronavirus as of March 26, 2020: “This first preliminary description of outcomes among patients with COVID-19 in the United States indicates that fatality was highest in persons aged ?85, ranging from 10% to 27%, followed by 3% to 11% among persons aged 65–84 years, 1% to 3% among persons aged 55-64 years, <1% among persons aged 20–54 years, and no fatalities among persons aged ?19 years.”[i] These rates are nearly the same or a little higher than the normal death rate for all of these age groups in a given year. For instance, the CDC also states that the mortality rates each year of people that are 65-74 years of age is almost 2%; for those 75-84 it is 4.5%, and for those 85 and older it is nearly 14%.[ii] The risk is definitely higher, but it is high enough to fundamentally change American life?
Principles are important not only in the Christian’s life but in secular society as well. What are the principles that we must balance together? There are many and some even conflict at times. For example, we must weigh the principle of “life” with that of “liberty.” Our Declaration of Independence puts them together in one phrase as unalienable rights endowed upon us by our Creator along with the pursuit of happiness. The question is – “Can we balance the protection of life and the protection of freedom – specifically for us in relation to assembling as Believers?” Not only can we, BUT WE MUST. Freedoms are lost when they are not exercised. As a church we submitted to the suggestion not to meet in large groups, so we moved for one week to a limited schedule at church to Sunday mornings. As of Monday, Governor DeWine put into effect an order to shelter in place for two weeks – which we are following as a church. We are trying to balance life – but with the understanding that we must get back to liberty as well. Not only for churches, but for society in general.
So, we must consider TRUTH, RISK, PRINCIPLES and one more thing which is the most important of all – FAITH. Faith is important to my life as well as many others in our nation. We have encouraged our members to use this time of being homebound to grow in their faith, including Bible reading, Prayer, family time, and reaching out to others in our neighborhoods with charity and the Gospel. Yet, a great part of the Christian faith is still is meeting together – that is what the word “Church” means – to assemble physically – and more than that for the Believer because we meet to honor and glorify God as the Lord commands us in Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. This we will do very soon, because it is vital to who we are. For most “Christians” in our nation, probably the majority, church is a one time a week thing that is hit or miss at best. But for a faithful Believer – it is an integral part of their lives. For our church, we have four services a week and over half our members come to all of them. So, to take all of these services away from us – is detrimental to who we are as an assembly of Believers.
As Americans and especially as Christians, we need to keep living our lives by FAITH while carefully and cautiously protecting the lives of others as much as we are able. The Bible says in Psalm 31:15a My times are in thy hand; and in the same chapter it reads Psalm 31:5 Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth. My life belongs to Him. The Lord is the one we look to for our safety and our provision. Not living foolishly or haphazardly, but with purpose and faith to carry on what we are here for. Romans 11:29 teach us that the gifts and calling of God have not changed. They have not changed in 2000 years and the should not change in this present crisis either.