Most states have issued stay-at-home orders to hopefully slow the spread of COVID-19 and ordered many businesses to close to prevent gatherings of ten or more people. Some states have outlawed religious gatherings, others have made exceptions for them.
Here in Florida our governor has issued a stay-at-home executive order limiting travel for “essential services and activities” and stipulated that attending religious services are essential activities. This comes during the most significant season for the Christian, Easter.
Across the country churches have tried to accommodate demands for social distancing with drive-in church, drive-by confessions and online services, but others have not obeyed those orders clinging to their First Amendment right to the “free exercise” of their faith.
Those restrictions will be put to the test this week when many believers traditionally enjoy communion services on Good Friday and look forward to Easter services this coming Sunday. The church my wife and I are members of has been meeting online and will share Good Friday communion together online.
But there are many churches that do not have the capabilities our church has and may decide to meet. Here in Florida to meet or not will not be a problem legally but may be in other states. And those that do meet, may seem to be showing a callous disregard for the health of their communities.
These issues are difficult to address because of differing perspectives. Paul tells us, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised,” 1 Corinthians 2:14.
Paul’s point is a natural person, one whose fallen nature has not been supernaturally regenerated by faith in Christ, does not understand why people of faith do what they do and think they are foolish. Unbelievers do not understand why believers would risk their lives to labor in a field hospital in New York City’s Central Park to help those afflicted with the coronavirus while being verbally attacked.
In like manner, the faithless do not understand the deep-seated desire of Christians to meet with their church family to worship our God, or why, along with our governor, it would be considered an essential activity.
I am thankful my church has the ability to continue our services online. But I do not feel threatened by any church without similar options that decides to meet or chooses not to pursue other options in favor of assembling together. They are not defying government they are simply surrendering to what they see as the will of God.
Each church faces different circumstances and should pray about how they should respond and follow what they believe God would have them to do and be prepared to live with the consequences whatever they might be.
The Scriptures tell us “the righteous will live by his faith,” Habakkuk 2:4. Life is important; so is faith. For believers, living a life without faith is not living.