“Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.” 2 Corinthians 4:1
There are many things that I am thankful for during this pandemic called COVID-19 and this time when we are unable to gather in-person for worship. I am thankful for the hard work of our church staff and ministry volunteers, especially the Audio Visual committee. I am thankful that our church has discovered a creative way to be on mission, making care packages for nurses at Central Harnett Hospital (NCBC is the only church to do so!) I am thankful for how our deacons have been caring for their assigned families and how many of our members have been checking on each other. I am grateful for the generosity of our church family and the steady financial contributions that are sustaining our church. I am thankful for patience and flexibility, as well as, your prayers and words of encouragement. This has not been easy for any of us, but with God’s help we are making it through!
One question that I suspect has been on everyone’s mind is: “How do we remain faithful during a pandemic?” What is the witness for Christ that we should display during this time? For different people, there are very different answers.
Some people have argued that the faithful witness of the church would have been to never stop meeting for worship, even if it meant civil disobedience against government orders. They suggest that worship is vitally important to strengthen the spirits of those enduring stressful times. Proponents of this position have advocated that we should take proper precautions and hold in person worship gatherings as a demonstration to the world that we have “bold” faith in Christ.
Other people have suggested that the response of Christians during a global health emergency is to be caring for people in need. They would point to the historical evidence of Christians risking their own health and well-being to care for the sick, vulnerable, and dying people during previous times of plague. They would point to Jesus’ ministry to the least of these and argue that we shouldn’t be quaran-tined at home but should be caring for the sick and vulnerable even if it means sacrificing ourselves.
Still others have suggested that the most Christ-like approach is to be good citizens, and loving neighbors, by staying at home, abiding by government mandates, and practicing social distancing strate-gies to slow the spread of the virus.
That question of WWJD—What Would Jesus Do?, can be a tricky one. I suspect there is some level of truth and validity in each of these arguments. Any of these three perspectives can be aligned with our church mission statement: worshipping God, making disciples, and ministering to people in need. Yet, we must give ourself (and others) the grace to remember that none of us has faced anything quite like this before. We have seen other viruses and times of sickness, but nothing that has unfolded quite the way this has. There will be many lessons learned and likely some changes on the horizon. People will critique and debate the response for a long time to come. There will be positives and there will be negatives. But I would like to offer yet another alternative that I feel is the surest Christ-like response in a stressful time.
I believe that no matter the situation or circumstance, the one thing that gives evidence of a born again believer is the Fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5, Paul urges us to “live by the Spirit” and warns us against the “works of the flesh”—such as strife, anger, dissention, and quarrels. Instead, he calls us to the very opposite, as those who have been filled with the Holy Spirit. The fruit seen in our lives should be, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal.5:22-23). Has this “fruit” been seen in your life in recent days? Have these attributes been the hallmark of your character and witness for Christ during this pandemic? Or have the works of the flesh been taking control? Are the things you post on social media consistent with this Christian fruit? Jesus said in Matthew 7:16, “You will know a tree by it’s fruit.” Would a stranger be able to observe you for 24 hours and list those 9 characteristic fruits of a Christian based upon what they see in your life? I pray this gives us all some “fruit” for thought!