It is time for Christians individually and corporately to repent for the way we and our institutions responded to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Blaming people for contracting a catchy virus has been one of many widely deployed COVID manipulation tactics. That has shifted into blaming people for dying of a catchy virus after they decided their risks from taking the vaccines outweighed their risks from catching the disease.
Shaming people for dying by accident is a bit twisted, but it might make sense if you believe life is over once a person stops breathing, and so cling to the illusion of human control over death to avoid the terror of acknowledging that’s impossible. It’s such pagan assumptions driving the ridiculous number of news articles with fear-porn titles like these: “Kansas City area official who died from COVID was unvaccinated, ‘felt he was immune’”; “Unvaccinated husband and wife die of COVID-19 leaving 5 children behind“; “Unvaccinated Father Inspired Other Family Members to Get Shot Before Dying From COVID“; “Bride Planning Funeral Instead of Wedding After Unvaccinated Groom Dies From COVID.”
Christian teaching diametrically opposes the underlying theology pushed in such articles and in many other popular COVID narratives. That’s true despite the appearance generated by the majority of Western churches prioritizing obedience to men instead of to God by shutting themselves down over COVID-19. Doing so contradicts numerous clear commands of scripture.
It’s a mark of the weakness of the Western church that more church leaders have not proclaimed this to the world by now. They’ve left standing for basics of the faith to the far too few strong pastors such as John MacArthur and Mark Dever. Let’s go through a few of these clear biblical teachings that even this theologically basic laywoman knows thanks to parents who read the Bible to her growing up and excellent pastoral instruction since then.
God Decides When We Die, Not COVID
For one thing, Christians believe that life and death belong entirely to God. There is nothing we can do to make our days on earth one second longer or shorter: “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be,” says the Psalmist. “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s,” says Saint Paul in Romans 14:8.
For another thing, for Christians, death is good. Yes, death is also an evil — its existence is a result of sin. But, thanks be to God, Jesus Christ has redeemed even death. In his resurrection, Christ has transformed death into a portal to eternal life for Christians. What Satan meant for evil, God has transformed into good.
Verse three of the 1540 Dutch hymn, “In God, My Faithful God,” beautifully expresses this timeless theology:
If death my portion be,
It brings great gain to me;
It speeds my life’s endeavor
To live with Christ forever.
He gives me joy in sorrow,
Come death now or tomorrow.
The Christian faith makes it very clear that death, while sad to those left behind and a tragic consequence of human sin, is now good for all who believe in Christ. A Christian funeral is a cause for rejoicing, albeit understandably through tears from those of us temporarily left behind.
“Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord,” says 2 Corinthians 5:8. This is not a small or unclear doctrine. It is repeated over and over again in scripture. It flatly rejects the heathen idea that death is to be avoided at any cost.
‘To Live Is Christ; To Die Is Gain’
Our Christian heritage also rejects the avoidance of death at any cost by venerating the millions of martyrs we honor precisely for choosing to confess Christ despite the indescribable costs to them of comfort, health, and life itself.
Still today, our brothers and sisters are routinely martyred in countries like Communist China. In the Middle East, Christians are raped and ethnically cleansed to punish their beliefs. It’s time for we comparatively comfortable Westerners to despise the shame and get back to running our race like their fellow Christians, not cowards.
As the Apostle Paul proclaimed, “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” He, of course, himself went on to make good on that statement with a martyr’s death.
If he can do that, we can go to our safe, air-conditioned churches and worship. We can even go to the hospital rooms and bedrooms of those dying with infectious diseases and love them to the end, like the imitations of our Master Christians have boldly shown themselves to be for centuries, putting pagans to shame.
The Path to Destruction Is Very, Very Popular
The Christian church has always faced a stronger prospect of suffering and death because “the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.” We are instructed to be, not driven by “consensus” and social comfort, but the truth as God has given it to us in His Word.
Christ our Lord says in the 10th chapter of Matthew, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” It is this commanded, holy fear of God before all others that motivates not just the noble martyrs but all Christians today who decline to obey the rulers whose commands contradict God’s.
Jesus is direct about what obeying Him, rather than men, can cost. He endured the worst of this cost Himself. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you,” Jesus says in John. “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”
A bit later in that gospel, Jesus again emphasizes: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” To put it simply, people who want an effort-free, comfort-filled life need to fight that to be Christians.
Christians are explicitly called to spurn pagans’ approval, advice, and beliefs for the sake of our souls: “Enter by the narrow gate,” Christ says in Matthew. “For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Where Is Hope in Crisis? Give Me Jesus!
In a time of crisis, what do people need most? Christians believe the answer to that is: Jesus. Not food, not water, not even health. First and foremost, we need Jesus.
This is why, for example, it has been the historic practice of the Christian church for pastors to bring the Sacraments to the sick and dying. Our faithful fathers and mothers knew that, while God certainly works through doctors and scientists, the most important work, one that belongs utterly to Him, is the “medicine of immortality.”
It is this medicine that we sacramentalists crave and receive each Sunday. It is why there is for us no such thing as “Zoom church.” Church is not church without Jesus, and where has Jesus promised to be? “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Where else has Jesus promised to be? In his Word and Holy Communion. We can’t get those at home by ourselves. That’s why we’re commanded to “not forsak[e] the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is” (Hebrews 10:25).
To forsake assembling for worship also breaks the Third Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” We break this commandment, says Martin Luther’s catechism, when we “despise or neglect God’s Word,” which means “failing to gather together in worship to receive God’s Word and Sacraments” and “rejecting or disregarding God’s Word.”
Repent Now, Because We All Could Die Any Moment
“How few are we within Thy fold, Thy saints by men forsaken! True faith seems quenched on every hand, Men suffer not Thy Word to stand; Dark times have us oe’rtaken,” laments Luther in one of his Reformation hymns. “…May God root out all heresy And of false teachers rid us.”
Sin destroys faith. It is time for Christians individually and corporately to repent for the way we and our institutions responded to the COVID-19 outbreak. Our refusal to preach and obey the clear teachings of the Bible amid the world’s panic have betrayed Our Lord.
Thanks be to God, there’s a way out for us. It’s the same as for Saint Peter, the coward Christ transformed into a lion. That way out is repentance! Then let us rejoice and sin no more.