Why We Should Stop Meeting Together
Why should Christians stop meeting together during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic? Do we lack faith that God will protect us? Did God not promise his protection in Psalm 91:5-6? More and more churches are suspending their church service and other meetings in order to avoid the spread of SARS CoV 2 virus (COVID-19) during the current worldwide pandemic. Many are instead streaming their church service online, or have a link to other online platforms to provide their members, encouragement, connection and the Word of God through the sermon. The meeting together physically is an important part of the Christian church tradition. We meet together for koinonia, prayer, worship, and edification. Even in times of extreme persecution, the Church had always tried to meet together secretly in spite of the danger. So why should we not have a physical face to face meeting now? Why should we try to cancel all physical events?
First, it is not a lack of faith in God, when churches suspend their physical meeting together. It is having faith in a God who created rational human beings so that they will behave rationally. Yes, God has promised his protection. Do we then step off a 10-story building and trust God to send his angels to catch us before we go splat?
Psalm 91:11–12 (NIV)
11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
Is this about our faith or our pride? The devil suggested the same to Jesus when he tempted Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4:5-7). Here the devil brought Jesus to the highest point of the temple and told him to jump. The devil quoted Psalm 91:11-12 to Jesus (yes, the devil knows the Scriptures well too). If you are who you say you are, jump and have the faith that God will send his angels to cushion your fall. Jesus’ response is instructive. Jesus said we are not to test God, quoting Deuteronomy 6:16.
Deuteronomy 6:16 (NIV)
16 Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.
This issue here, as Jesus was aware, is not about faith but testing God. In Massah, the Israelites argued with Moses about the lack of water, with Moses rebuking the Israelites for testing God. It is because of this lack of faith and disobedience that Psalm 95:8-10 stated that the Moses generation will not see the Promised Land but be condemned to wander in the desert for forty years until they are all dead. So when we question each other about faith or lack of faith, we have to be sure it is not a desire to test God. Underlying our question about faith maybe our desire to test God and see if he will keep his word. The suspension of meeting together is not a lack of faith but an act of worship to God.
Second, social distancing is found to be an effective way to limit the spread of this infectious new coronavirus. This virus can only live in human beings and is spread from one human to another by droplets (coughing) and contact (included contaminated tables, chairs). The virus spread easily when groups of people come together and one of them is infected. When the infected person is identified quickly and treated (there is no effective treatment, just supportive), the virus dies and cannot spread. Stopping the human to human spread will stop the pandemic. Hence, the need to cancel all public gatherings where people come together. This is called social distancing and it is our social responsibility to enact it. It is to protect one another especially those over 65 years old who are especially at risk to die from this virus.
Another effect of social distancing is that it slows the spread of the coronavirus. If too many people are infected and become sick at the same time, our healthcare system will be overwhelmed such as is happening in Italy and Iran now, and what had happened in China.
This week will be the school holidays for Malaysia and Singapore. It is hoped that parents will take note of the following:
- stay at home as much as possible
- avoid trips both local and overseas if possible (even if you have paid, your health is more precious than your money)
- wash your hands frequently with soap and water at home, and with hand sanitizer outside the house
- if anyone is sick with fever and cough, stay at home and do not visit your friends
- ‘tapau’/takeout and eat at home as much as possible
- if you have to eat outside your house, use hand sanitizer to spray and wash the area you will be sitting and bring your own eating utensils
- avoid touching your nose and face and then your mouth
- try to sit 2 meters away from other people
- avoid crowded places, even crowded playgrounds or other open-air spaces
This social responsibility is our act of worship to love our neighbors.
The decision to cancel or suspend face to face church activities is a responsible response to the coronavirus pandemic. Churches must find different ways to connect with their congregations online. The technology to do so is already available. We continue to pray that the pandemic will be over soon and we can resume our traditional services.