Services Suspended for Corona Virus Threat
As we are all aware, Redeemer has made the decision to suspend public worship services for at least the next few weeks. Even though this action is consistent with advice from our general assembly and what most other churches in our country and our presbytery are doing, it was still not an easy decision and not made lightly by your session. In the interest of transparency and perhaps answering any questions, I have summarized below some of the Biblical rational that informed the decision.
The 5th Commandment
Our Westminster Larger Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism teach clearly that our 5th commandment duty to honor our “Father and Mother” extends beyond our natural parents to all those that God has placed in authority over us, including civil government (see WLC 124). In Romans 13 Paul teaches that God has appointed the state and given it legitimate authority. Therefore, as Christians we are called to give “all due reverence in heart, word, and behavior.... willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels; due submission to their corrections, fidelity to, defense, and maintenance of their persons and authority...” (WLC 127). The Heidelberg similarly calls on all Christians to “submit myself with due obedience to their good instruction and discipline and also have patience with their weaknesses and shortcomings, since it is God’s will to govern us by their hand” (HC 104). As our federal and state authorities have urged people not to meet during this time due to the Corona Virus outbreak, we want to respect their role and help the endeavor to promote the public health as far as we can.
The 6th Commandment
The sixth commandment does not simply forbid the unjust taking of life, but also the “neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life” (WLC 136). Further, it requires us to do everything in our power to promote our own life and the life of our neighbor. We are called to avoid things that would “harm or recklessly endanger myself,” and further we must seek “to protect (my neighbor) from harm as much as I can” (HC 105; 107). Given what we are being told right now about COVID-19, one of the best ways we can protect the most vulnerable in our church and community is to suspend our public services for a time.
Our Christian Witness
The first petition of the Lord’s prayer teaches us that our great desire is that God’s name would be glorified in this world. This entails that take actions that will promote and bring glory to God ourselves, living in such a way that “God’s name will never be blasphemed because of us but honored and praised” (HC 122). If we were to ignore the warnings of our national and leaders and continue to meet, and thus contributed to the spread of the virus in our community, it would no doubt bring discredit to God’s name and his people.
In closing, I recognize that as a diverse church body we have members from many different backgrounds, different age groups, different politics, and different interests. I have no doubt that as we process the threat of COVID-19 and the appropriate Christian response to it, we will come to many different opinions even within our own church body. I would ask and encourage us all to make intentional efforts to listen, respect and love those brothers and sisters (and others) who might come to different conclusions than we do. This is just one of many ways that we bear with one another, and prevent Satan from getting a foothold in our life and in our church. Along these lines I found a short blog helpful from the Gospel Coalition entitled “avoiding disunity amid Difficult Corona Virus decisions.” I pass it along to you. Please continue to pray for our church and the increase of God’s kingdom in and through this difficult season.