Other Voices (Part 1)
Mike Wilson: I’m not going to argue one side or another in the medical controversy. First, because I lack the medical qualifications and expertise, I do not believe I can speak with any personal authority in the matter. Second, I believe there is room for honest disagreement among people of good will on this issue.
At a time when passions run high, and emotions happen to be off the charts right now, it is not wise to be too dogmatic, even if one thinks his own opinion might be more informed than someone else’s. Admittedly, I’ve had an ongoing and vigorous debate in my own head about the matter, which adds to my own caution about being too opinionated regarding public health policy during a crisis.
Ron Halbrook: If the government commanded us to disband churches of Christ in order to stop our preaching against the murderous violence of abortion or the evil perversions of homosexuality, we would not even consider complying. We would remember Acts 5:29, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”
The coronavirus pandemic has presented us with a different set of circumstances because our ability to assemble in one place as a local church has been interrupted but not by persecution. Instead, we are now reminded that there are times when we are “providentially hindered,” which refers to God's rule over nature, the weather and the whole universe.
The rapid spread of deadly diseases involves the operations of nature. We depend on medical professionals to judge the level of danger in such matters, just as we might depend on weather forecasters if typhoons, earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions were coming at the time of worship. In this present crisis, the government is acting based on the judgment of medical professionals and based on the rapid worldwide spread of the coronavirus.
For the church to function in worship, the Bible speaks of saints who come together in one place (I Cor. 11:18; 14:23, 26). When we cannot come together in one place because of physical and providential circumstances, we are not guilty of forsaking the assembly. Therefore, we can only wait until such a time as we are able to come together again.
But the question then arises, what are we permitted to do in the meantime? May saints meet for worship in their homes and share the Lord's Supper? I only know to leave such questions to the individual conscience of each Christian. Each individual and family will have to decide what they should do in these unusual circumstances to serve the Lord and to remain safe.
There really is nothing new under the sun, but each generation faces challenges and crises that are new to its time and experience. Let us rest assured the Lord is in control of the universe as He always has been, and this moment will pass in His own time and way. We have nothing to fear if we focus our faith on Him and trust Him until this time of trial passes by His good providence.
The last thing we need in such difficult times is heated controversy that might leave lingering alienation among brethren. We need each other more than ever to encourage one another to be steadfast in our faith, hope, and love while passing through the trials spawned by this pandemic. And, hopefully we will be closer and more united than ever when this coronavirus finally passes.