Rising Health Concerns for Snohomish County
Rising Health Concerns Regarding COVID-19 (podcast)
A Christian Response to Coronavirus (blog post)
March 2, 2020 • Pastor Erik Sanders
I begin this article with the reminder that there is nothing new under the sun. Within human history we have seen plagues and illnesses kill large numbers of people: Cholera, Bubonic plague, Influenza. Anytime this takes place we are grieved at the results of the Fall and feel the consequences of our human depravity. In past centuries Christians had to navigate how they would interact and react to these illnesses. I am convinced that if believers are to respond properly, they must have a robust biblical viewpoint to disseminate what God’s heart is about the matter. Martin Luther offered an open letter to believers about how they should respond to a recent black plague outbreak that 200 years previous killed half of Europe. In the letter, Luther challenges Christians to see opportunities to tend to the sick. But Luther does not encourage his readers to expose themselves recklessly to danger. His letter constantly straddles two competing goods: honoring the sanctity of one’s own life, and honoring the sanctity of those in need. Luther makes it clear that God gives humans a tendency toward self-protection and trusts that they will take care of their bodies (Eph. 5:29; 1 Cor. 12:21–26). He defends public health measures such as quarantines and seeking medical attention when available. In fact, Luther proposes that not to do so is to act recklessly. What if a Christian still desires to flee? Luther ultimately tasks them to decide whether to flee or to stay during plagues, trusting that they will arrive at a faithful decision through prayer and meditation on the Scriptures. Participation in aiding the sick arises out of grace, not obligation. Every believer must decide for themselves through prayer and Scripture meditation. However, Luther himself was not afraid. Despite the exhortations of his university colleagues, he stayed behind to minister to the sick and dying. Here is a brilliant quotation from Luther’s letter, drawing on Matthew 25:31-46: This I well know, that if it were Christ or his mother who were laid low by illness everybody would be so solicitous and would gladly become a servant or helper. Everyone would want to be bold and fearless; nobody would flee but everyone would come running. . . .If you wish to serve Christ and to wait on him, very well, you have your sick neighbor close at hand. Go to him and serve him, and you will surely find Christ in him. John Calvin said it this way, “Duty must not be neglected, no more in epidemic disease than in war or fire.” Our Response Walk in faith and wisdom. As believers we are to live in faith and not fear. 2 Timothy 1:7 states "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." Situations like the coronavirus will reveal what is inside of our heart. It will reveal whether we are being controlled by fear, or living by faith looking to God’s Word and trusting God’s divine providence. In moments like these it is not about self-preservation, but our Savior’s purposes. Second, we are to walk in wisdom. This wisdom should not be advised by news feeds and social media posts. We must look to professional opinion and recommendations. We should take or cues from the CDC, Snohomish Health Dept, and the W.H.O. The World Health Organization on their website made the following statement about the stigma being raised about individuals from certain regions of the world. It stated: “Stigma occurs when people negatively associate an infectious disease with a specific population. This means that people are being labelled, stereotyped, separated and/or experience loss of status and discrimination because of a potential negative affiliation with #COVID19.” Certain steps of wisdom for BBC: Suspend handshaking, follow CDC and Snohomish County health recommendations when it comes to public gatherings. Follow strict well-child nursery policy. Ultimately, there are precautions and doesn’t guarantee immunity. Also, we will begin to prepare our online format if we are not able to meet. Pray for healing and safety. This is the most obvious request for most of us. Pray that those who have the virus will be healed, and that its spread would slow and be soon eradicated. Pray that the government agencies would have wisdom and skill in containing the epidemic, and that doctors and nurses would be energized for their work. Pray for scientists and biomedical engineers scrambling to invent a way to cure and immunize against this new virus. Pray for the furtherance of the gospel. Foster church unity. Satan would love to use this opportunity to cause disunity among brothers and sisters. While we should make every effort to base our discussions on reliable evidence, we should remember that discussions of suffering, illness, and disease have a psychological element. Recognizing this can help us communicate in a way that is more loving toward our neighbor. For instance, we may be inclined to communicate in a way that is either overly rational or overly emotional. Some of us are inherently prone to downplay the severity of such public-health threats (“We’ve seen this same scare-mongering with Ebola and SARS”), while others are inclined toward catastrophizing, believing a situation is far worse than is warranted by the evidence (“This is the most serious health threat we face!”). We should recognize our own dispositions and acknowledge that others may differ. We shouldn’t be dismissive of the young mother who earnestly inquires if we should consider canceling church services to avoid the spread of the disease, nor should we feel it is our place to “scare some sense” into the overly analytical optimist who thinks the threat is overstated. While being deferential and respectful to those on either end, we must also be consistently biblical. We should, for instance, help others understand what Scripture says about how God is sovereign over illness and suffering, and that we serve the one who casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). Let me end with the closing remarks of Northwest University President Joseph Castleberry in a letter to the university staff: “Finally, I want to urge everyone to take this epidemic seriously and from a position of faith and confidence in God. Even in the case of a pandemic, it is very unlikely that anyone at Northwest University will die from this epidemic. We are Christians, and we do not live in fear, but rather in confidence that God has our future in his hands and will preserve our bodies, souls, and spirits unto eternal life." "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God." - Psalm 20:7 KJV Every believer must decide for themselves through prayer and Scripture meditation.
NOTICE - Missions Conference Update (schedule changes)
March 11, 2020 • Pastor Erik Sanders
Church Family, I want to update you about the schedule changes at church due to the Coronavirus concerns. Governor Jay Inslee issued an executive order prohibiting meetings larger than 250 people. He also ordered that any meetings smaller than 250 follow strict guidelines. What should our response be? There should be a couple of considerations. First, the Governor is not seeking to be malicious or spiteful to churches with this order. He has made this decision for the health and safety of our community. Second, according to Romans 13 we have a Christian duty to honor the laws of those in governmental authority as long as they don’t violate Scripture. So, with these consideration in mind, the following decisions have been made by the pastors, deacons, and staff. We will be conducting our Mission Conference through online streaming. Our missionaries are in town, so they will be presenting and teaching during these online services. The schedule is as follows: No Prayer Meeting tonight. We will be sending out a prayer sheet that you will be able to use to pray for our conference and our missionaries. Friday – A virtual service will be live streamed at 7pm. Saturday – A virtual service will be live streamed at 6pm. Sunday – A virtual service at 11am, and a virtual service at 6pm. I am disappointed that we are not able to physically gather for our conference this weekend, but I know God has a purpose in all of this. Please make every effort to join us online for all of the services. In Christ, Pastor Sanders