The World Health Organization has declared a pandemic in response to the spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus. Several states in the US have declared a state of emergency. As of this morning, all gatherings of 250 or more in the state of Oregon have been asked not to meet, and the government is encouraging social distancing. This includes school events, church gatherings, and private events. The corona virus most adversely effects the elderly and immune system depressed, and those with underlying health conditions. Most who have the virus will experience symptoms which pass within a few days. For a small percentage— the immune system depressed, the virus has complicated underlying issues and has led to death. The drastic response of the government is one of prevention to keep the virus from spreading at the rate observed in other affected areas. In response to the current pandemic, fear and panic are on the rise.

As a people who have faith in Jesus, the one who rules the wind and sea, how do we respond? 

With faith and wisdom.

First, faith in God. No matter the outcome, we believe as people of the Word, that God is in control. There is no force, no country, no virus that can act outside His will. Jesus declared in Matthew 10:29 that “not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from the Father.” He does not promise that we are impervious to sickness or trial, but that God is in control. This is an admonition towards faith, not fear. It’s faith in God’s goodness, faith in His power, faith in His sovereign plan. 

Second, we proceed with wisdom. Wisdom is the right application of knowledge. We know those whom are older and with underlying health conditions are at the greatest risk. Wisdom would encourage those with such underlying conditions to use discretion when choosing where to go, and if they should go to places like the market, or large gatherings. 

If the possibility of catching a virus— which could kill the body, exists, our response is not to fear, but to be wise. It’s not more or less spiritual to avoid physical threat — remember, Paul was ushered out of town to escape a death-plot from the Jews! If you’re considered “vulnerable” according to the CDC, you’d be exercising discretion to stay home, even from church! By God’s grace, we have access to technology by which you can access sermons. We have table groups at Hope, which are smaller gatherings in homes, and we are of a size of congregation that we will not let you slip out of fellowship. Thus, you are not “less spiritual” for doing so, only don’t let it be an excuse to neglect meeting together (Hebrews 10:25). But, if you are healthy, especially if you do not have any underlying conditions, we encourage you to act in faith, and join us for worship!

However, acting in wisdom applies to our entire body, not just those at risk. Wisdom should be applied by our families who have sick ones in their home. This is part of caring for others. Symptoms may not show for up to two weeks from exposure. If you or your family have any symptoms, it is wise to consider others, even if it is to your detriment, and stay home from work, coffee shops, community gatherings, even church. Staying home from work might be the hardest to accomplish for some, as many in our body don’t have jobs that allow them “sick leave.” My hope, as a church body, is that we care for those in our community and minister to their needs. This, too, is biblical, as we consider others more important than ourselves. 

At Hope, we are operating in faith and wisdom by taking the following measures: sanitizing surfaces, door handles, and toys; hand sanitizer in hallways and classrooms; snacks to children with use of gloves; modifying or suspending communion. We aren’t afraid, but acting in wisdom for the sake of the body. As of right now, all studies and services will continue as normal. 

God is good. He is sovereign. He calls us to faith in Him, and to know that we are invincible until our work is done. And he calls us to wisdom, for He acts in wisdom. 

Go forth in faith and wisdom!

Bobby Gaither