One young mother lamented over the harsh terms of debate over Covid on FB, asking plaintively why everyone doesn’t just get off FB and focus on their own churches? Good question.
Fact is, Covid has defined the lives of all of us for nine months now, and then some; our home life, church life, store life, health life, political life, legal life, work life, student life, vacation life, wedding life, funeral life, and on it goes. It doesn’t matter whether we think it is a public health crisis or a hoax; Covid has defined the lives of all of us for three-quarters of a year, now, and is likely to continue to do so for some time forward.
It doesn’t just define us internationally, nationally, and statewide, but also in “our own churches” and homes, even to the most personal level of whether or not grandparents will allow their grandchildren to see them, or kiss and hug them. When we talk—every last one of us—Covid is a central part of our conversations. And again, this is regardless of whether we think it’s a public health crisis or a hoax.
In other words, there is no safe place to go where Covid is not, and this whether it’s present because of sickness and deaths or because of the stupidity of our politicians and public health officials. Or, more likely, some combination of both.
Since we have been and will continue to be talking about Covid, what will we say? Will we say it as Christians or just sort of politically woke citizens? Will what we contribute to the debate be a living testimony to our Christian faith or a living testimony to our political commitments? And if some combination of both, one or the other will predominate and our listeners will know which it is and will take their conclusions from that.
There is no smallest nook or cranny where Covid is not the focus of our attention, and therefore no nook or cranny where the nature and quality of our Christian faith is not on exhibit and being evaluated by others. We may say we shouldn’t discuss it on social media, but doing so is an important part of our Christian witness whereas cute pictures of our lovely child and her birthday cake? Meh.
So what sort of Christian witness should we have whenever and wherever we discuss Covid?
Evangel Presbytery and the elders of Trinity Reformed Church have helped me have a steady hand at the tiller in this regard, and herewith my summary of what we’ve committed to together.
First, from the beginning we have said that Covid is largely an unknown and, consequently, those who claim to know this or that about it are to be met with a healthy dose of scepticism whether they are public health officials, politicians, or armchair data crunchers. Even today, nine months later, major changes in policy merely reflect the degree to which many of the most important aspects of Covid remain unknown, so scepticism and humility are still the primary postures we need.
Second, from the beginning we have said that the laws of our civil authorities issued as a response to Covid should be obeyed since God has placed those authorities over us and called us to show them honor.
Third, we have said repeatedly that laws of quarantine are no tyranny; that they have a long history in our nation, and that Christians of past generations have obeyed them because they are direct fulfillment of the authority God Himself has delegated to the civil authority to protect life.
Fourth, we have said that the nature of these laws may well be overreach in this or that state or municipality, but this overreach by itself in no way invalidates the legal basis of these laws, generally.
Fifth, we have said we have discussed limits to where and when we as elders and pastors will call for disobedience to this or that overreach if they come to us in our local governments whether state, county, or municipality, mentioning one of those we would disobey, which is the banning of singing in public worship.
Sixth, we have said that each presbytery and church has the duty to make these decisions, and those who deny the authority of elders to lead their churches in these matters are schismatics, at least; and likely rebels, as well.
Seventh, we have said that, contrary to the stated position of the men of Moscow, face masks are not the “sacrament” of the secularists; that wearing a face mask does not hide “the image of God”; that face masks are not “idolatrous”; and that those elders of churches who ask congregants to submit to public health laws requiring face masks are not engaging in “idolatry.”
Eighth, we have said that we ourselves reserve judgment concerning the effectiveness of face masks, but that we are not civil magistrates, and thus must be careful not to think our personal opinions on this or that clinical or epidemiological aspect of Covid is any justification for ranting and railing against our civil authorities and the public health officials counselling them.
Ninth, we have said we condemn those Reformed men who speak disrespectfully of those God has put in positions of authority over them, whether husbands, fathers, bosses, teachers, elders, pastors, or civic leaders; and teach others to do the same.
Tenth, we have said that, regardless of whether Covid is a real public health crisis, a hoax, or some combination of both, the consequences have been catastrophic to human society and should drive all those who fear God to plead with Him for mercy, that He will use this discipline to call all men to Him in faith and repentance, and remove this plague He has sent us.
Lastly, a word to elders and pastors. You may think you can hide and wait Covid out, but your sheep are watching you carefully, and after Covid passes, nothing will be the same. Will you demonstrate your faithfulness as a shepherd by protecting your flock from the railers among us, or will you let your sheep graze the poison weeds of unsafe pastures where wolves prowl and stalk and pounce and kill and eat?
As I said at the beginning, every last person is confessing their faith through Covid discussion going on everywhere. Why should your sheep’s shepherd be the one man who is coy or silent? What right do you have to depend upon other shepherds to call your own sheep to honor and obey the authorities God has placed over them?
A word to the wise is sufficient.