In the midst of a global effort to stop a virus, Easter reminds us to look to the cure of all viruses, illnesses and negative in our world—Jesus, the Savior—and focus on what he said and what he did.
By Rick Shallenberger, US North Central Regional Director, Equipper Editor
Here in the United States, we are still at the beginning of seeing the potential impact of the coronavirus. Most churches have ceased gathering for public worship for a few weeks; many states have closed all restaurants and bars, a large number of employees are now working from home, and a large percentage of the population is trying their best to stay home. The idea, of course, is to limit contact with one another for a short time as an effort to slow down and/or stop the spread of the virus.
It’s possible we will not be able to meet for Holy Week and Easter. Some find this unacceptable and unfortunately, some well-meaning Christians are defying the government guidelines and are still meeting for church and small groups. Their justification is a misinterpretation of an understanding of the separation of church and state, and a misinterpretation of Scripture and prophecy. I’ve heard people say, “The government cannot and should not tell churches whether or not to meet.” I’ve also heard people say, “Jesus will protect us from getting the virus as long as we don’t forsake gathering together.”
While there is an element of truth to the first statement, we are missing the point. The governments haven’t asked churches to forsake meeting because they are against the church, but because they are for the people. They are attempting to slow the spread of the virus. I suggest if we follow the guidelines Jesus gave us during his last evening with his disciples prior to his crucifixion, we’d comply by not meeting together.
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
GCI congregations are filled with high-risk brothers and sisters. Many in our congregations are elderly and many have health issues. Is it more important to insist on meeting together, or to do what Jesus commands us to do, “Love one another”? But Jesus didn’t stop there—he said, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
How did Jesus love us? Here are a few ways:
- He set aside his equality with the Father (Phil. 2:5-8) and became a servant.
- Jesus stepped out of his comfort zone. I’m speculating of course, but I think you would agree Jesus was much more “comfortable” as a spirit being than he was a human being. And let’s not even get into the 9 months in the womb.
- Jesus went to the cross for us. The ultimate sacrifice.
- Jesus went to the grave for us. He was bound in cloth and lay in a tomb until his resurrection.
- Jesus did not insist on doing things his way. “Not my will, but yours.”
- Everything Jesus did was for others.
So if we love as Jesus loves, we sacrifice for the sake of others; we put others first; we do whatever we can for others. And this is what identifies disciples of Jesus, not that we put church above all us, but that we put the love of Jesus above all else and we are motivated by “our love for one another.”
And then came Easter! Jesus rose from the grave to give us new life. His love had come full circle and by rising, he included us in all he had accomplished. He vanquished death. Illnesses and viruses. As frightening as the coronavirus may be, it cannot remove us from the hope and promises that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection bring us. He is the cure for coronavirus; he is the cure for every sickness and evil in society. Easter reminds us that new life has come in Jesus with a greater fullness to be fulfilled.
We may still be in the midst of the fallout of the coronavirus, but we know it will not break the hope and promises we have in Jesus. Meeting together person to person as a church is a blessing, but it should never get in the way of being disciples that set the example of loving others as Jesus loves us.
He is risen! He is risen, indeed.