Let me start this article with the latest news of the World Health Organization announcing the global pandemic reach of the COVID-19 and shortly days after, the Europe, being the epicenter of the virus pandemic. The United States, with rising cases of the virus, declared a state of national emergency, and so are the worst hit countries of the world. Then, here comes the stock market worldwide plummeting, the threat of global supply and demand on basic commodities, hoarding issues, people getting to panic hour after hour, and sadly, born-again Christians discomforted over the fact that this could likewise affect their very own household and churches. In fact, several Christian churches worldwide have locked down worship services. But wait, is locking down the right approach? When could the lockdown be of sound mind for churches?
But 2 Timothy 1:7 is clear when Paul said, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind”. How should a Christian exercise this verse amidst the Corona Virus threat?
Clearly, this verse was exhorted by Paul to the early Christians but more specifically so of Timothy, under circumstances befitting a newbie role in Christian leadership. Acts 1:8 said “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” Luckily, this verse is not limited to the power to witness alone as many Christian would suppose, in view likewise of the many instances in the Book of Acts whereby the name of JESUS was invoked which, in turn gave them deliverance of desired results. Both verses referred to the same power, the supernatural power of the Holy Ghost, who does not give you the spirit of cowardice.
Honestly, the COVID-19 threat has taken Christian faith by storm, literally locking down churches worldwide while sending off the faithless running. But the bigger question is this, “Is locking down churches tantamount to being faithless? Is locking down churches equate to having a spirit of cowardice? A BIG NO.
We are all aware of the global threat of this virus and while the World Health Organization is doing its best to find solution to counter its rapid spread, their efforts seem futile at the moment with Europe countries nearly surpassing the statistics of China all combined. Understandably, no state, and the Philippines is no exemption, could ever attempt to remain motionless at this time, given the extensive infection this has caused. Strategically, government has to initiate localize lockdown, with Local Government Units dictating the move. Logically, OPIF Incorporated as a law-abiding Fellowship, we subject ourselves to what we believe is beneficial not only for the physical health and well-being of our brethren but for the general welfare of the entire Filipino community. Hence, we yield to the Ordinances of the LGUs regarding lockdown and obey them for the greater good. Again, would that mean the Fellowship is of fearful Spirit? Of course not. Does it mean, we do not have the power of the Holy Spirit because we lock down churches in compliance with local directives? Not at all.
Take a second look at 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind”.
Sound Mind. Let me say my piece.
When we have the spirit of God, we possess the POWER and the same spirit affords us a sound mind (self-discipline in NIV translation). Sound mind basically translate to what is a fair and right judgment, whether in the exercise of our faith or spiritual dimension and even on personal decisions requiring spiritual guidance.
To me, what seems to be a mentally sound judgment with COVID-19 contamination are clear. For one, the first-line defense precautions implemented to avoid being inflicted with the virus and/or to protect those around us is a matter of humanitarian principle and social responsibility, which most Christian churches today including OPIF Inc. have seriously considered as health safety protocols.
Second, the State-imposed lockdown in certain localities to control the contamination is again, something, the Church needs to comply for the betterment not only within the church community, but of the wider welfare of the society, to which we exercise our responsibility to the state.
I share the same sentiments of some church leaders that the COVID Virus is not something that will stop us from worshipping, CERTAINLY TRUE. No argument. Neither the Fellowship nor the State has stopped Christians from worshipping because it is our fundamental right, the right to religion. Only that in the prevailing circumstance, where world leaders have joined forces to stop the virus, our duty to the state, to humanity in fact, requires more sound judgment than simply showcasing our arrogance as though some abound in faith, while others abound in cowardice. Remember, faith not exercised in sound judgment is faith disproportion. If I may borrow the term of NIV translation of sound judgment which is “self-discipline”, this concept again falls into the same context of being subjected to the higher authorities of the land, being our sound and most principled practical application of faith.
Amidst the uncertainties of this world, the Psalmist is clear when he said “Be Still My Soul”. God has not given us a spirit of fear but unfortunately, this global panic has shaken the Christian platform to be honest, supposed to be built on solid ground, unshakably firm. Our faith is supposed to move mountain on our command, but this droplet-riding corona virus has undoubtedly sent every Christian bickering, much so to the horror of those who knew not of Christ.
If only Christians understood the deeper meaning of this verse could one remain calm amidst the global scare of this pandemic. If only Christians knew about the vast power of the Holy Spirit, to which anyone baptized in the name of Jesus, has it in his possession already, could disperse off the global scare.
I was blessed by a Worship emcee saying “the sanitizer, alcohol and mask will not save our souls, but Christ will”. So true.
More than ever, now is the time to undergo “SPIRITUAL QUARANTINE” to check whether or not our Christian Faith has been infested of spiritual viruses. Good for the COVID-19 because incubation is 14 days, but the spiritual viruses we may have could go the distance, beginning from failure to attend divine services, to withholding of tithes, then slowly integrating himself back to the world.
More than ever, now is the time to undergo “SPIRITUAL LOCK DOWN”, where we do not allow any form of activities that may distort the very basic foundation of our Christian faith. Just like in localize lock down, police personnel are everywhere guarding the point of entries. Our spiritual lock down requires only the Holy Spirit to guard all possible entry points where Satan could potentially contaminate our minds, our actions, our souls, our heart, our character, rendering its end products – FEAR and INACTIVITY.
I stand by my statement when I said “Two Weeks Lockdown will not make me a Lesser Christian”, on the presumption that there are available church activities to choose from to begin with. “Forsaking not the assembly” is correct, but the word forsaking, to lecture a few, implies deliberate and willful attempt to neglect. Such is not the case with COVID-19 lockdown of churches which the OPIF Board has adopted in compliance with State directives. The directives coming from the Congregation Council is a sound judgment in the full exercise of faith, in fact, a disciplined action in harmony with state ordinances. If for a simple Council directive we fail to obey, how much more for a State Directive? Then, we have a problem here with disobeying faith.
Personally, the deeper spiritual sound view with COVID-19 is something that encompasses the physical bounds of the virus. That these viruses are just physical inflictions to squeeze off the spiritual viruses we actually have inside us.
These are in fact the outer visible testing parameters to check our inner spiritual calibration. If our spiritual calibration is updated, then we should not live in fear amidst the CORONA VIRUS threat. Let not our CROWN of LIFE succumb to the same virus disturbing Christians today, but with sound mind, we exercise right judgment of the prevailing circumstance ending the “COVID-19 fever” triumphantly. After all, the power of the Holy Spirit has made all of us Conquerors!