While most Churches tend to listen to the government directives on social distancing and are staying at home for now due to the Covid-19 pandemic and have suspended their person to person and fellowship services, the reactions from some segments of the church have been quite interesting. Although it is a very small segment of the church, their reaction is nonetheless, absurd. I am not sure that it is the social distancing by itself that they are against, but that the idea is extended to the Church. It ranges from those who think Pastors who go along with extending social distancing to the Church are faithless or do not have enough faith, to those who believe that the whole idea is a conspiracy against the Church. Interestingly, social distancing as a means of stopping the spread of a disease is explicitly mentioned in the Bible.
In Leviticus 13:45-46, the word of God addresses the disease of Leprosy, a skin disease that is highly infectious. Anyone who was diagnosed with Leprosy in the Old Testament days was required to be isolated from all others by living outside the camp, and should in case anyone comes near them, they must shout “unclean, unclean” (vs 45). Verse 46 added that “As long as they have the disease, they remain unclean. They must live alone”. Talk of the literary meaning of isolation. Pandemics cause a lot of distress, they result in death, and they cause pain for the people of God. God’s prescription for outliving attacks of the devil like these is revealed in Isaiah 26:20 – “Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by.” This is not different from the government directives that we should stay in our homes. I say a stay-at-home order in times like these is also biblical.
Many church leaders have exhibited what I call blind faith in dealing with the several directives that require us to stay away from our places of gathering for a while. They are eager to go against government directives forgetting that the word of God made it clear that “everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1). When we disobey lawful orders of the authority it is akin to disobeying God Himself.
As Christians we should be found in the vanguard of those leading the idea of asking our people to stay at home for now, even without a governmental stay-at-home order for the Church, as in the state of Ohio. Our Lord Jesus Christ declared in Matthew 22:39, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Anyone who loves their neighbor should want to do all within their power to help prevent contracting this dreaded Covid-19 disease, even if it includes staying at home. In Leviticus 19:16 the word of God says, “You shall not jeopardize the life of your neighbor.” In the light of the havoc this disease is causing, ministers who ask people to continue gathering at Church in large numbers are jeopardizing the lives of their neighbors. The other time I listened to Governor Cuomo of New York talking about wearing masks and he based his whole argument on respect of the other person. Let me add that for us Christians it should also make the statement that “I wear my mask because I love you the same way I love myself; and do not want either me or you to catch the virus.”
Pandemics or the spread of diseases like Covid-19 cannot be overcome by over-spiritualizing, and that is what many Christians tend to do at this time. Rather, this is the time we should draw from the wealth of inspiration and knowledge that God Himself has deposited in humankind. Some of the strategies and techniques that are used to fight against pandemics of this nature also have their roots in the word of God. People of God who go against some of these tried and tested strategies, but insist on faith only, are not only trivializing biblical faith but are propping up ideas in the brethren’s mind that the principles of public health are incompatible with the word of God. That is a fallacy and they are therefore standing on shifting sand.
Our best reactions at this time is to listen to the experts amongst us, while we go to our rooms and intercede on behalf of brethren in prayers, trusting His word in 2 Chronicles 7:14 that “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” – Pastor Simbo Odunaiya