Statement from the Elders of RMBC concerning the Coronavirus

March 16, 2020 | by

Like everyone else, your Elders have been talking and thinking about our response to the current situation regarding the Coronavirus.  Individuals are making decisions regarding their own behaviors and those of their families.  Sports leagues and entertainment venues such as Broadway theaters are making decisions concerning how they will proceed, with many simply canceling the remainder of their seasons.  And of course, political office-holders are having to make decisions about governmental policy, from school closings to immigration.

As the Elders of RMBC, we have a unique responsibility that goes beyond those considerations. Our responsibility, in part, is to put this situation into biblical perspective.  In fulfillment of that responsibility, allow us to remind you of certain pertinent truths.  When we have done that, we will then address some practical issues in regard to RMBC, so please read to the end of this statement.

We must always, of course, begin with the person of God.  We begin with Him because He has revealed Himself to be the creator, sustainer, and the ruler of the universe.  We begin with Him because He is sovereign over all things, and that includes the Coronavirus.  When the first person became infected, God did not say, “Uh, oh. What do I do now?”  Like the cross of Christ, and the election of His people, this virus was a part of His eternal decree.

That being the case, we also know that there is a divine purpose in this event.  In fact, we can be sure that our God has innumerable purposes in all that He does. He has purposes for individuals, for nations, and for His Kingdom.  This virus is not random, nor is it meaningless.

But if God is good, as we know Him to be, how can we explain such a thing?  When God created the world, did He not call it “good”?  Indeed, He did. But after that declaration, an event occurred which changed everything.  Our first parents fell into disobedience, and the world fell with them.  The Coronavirus is one consequence of that fall.  As wonderful as this world is, and as much as it continues to bear that mark of its Creator, it also bears the marks of the Fall.  Illness and death are but two of those marks.

“As for man, his days are like grass;

As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.

When the wind has passed over it, it is no more,

And its place acknowledges it no longer.”  Psalm 103:15-16

These truths remind us of another.  We are not in control.  We would like to be.  Sometimes we might deceive ourselves into thinking that we are, but that is merely an illusion.  There are things that we can and should do to minimize our exposure to this virus, but we can’t live in a bubble. And who is to say whether some other threat will come along after this one?  We ought to take responsible actions, but in the end, we can guarantee nothing. Our lives are in His hands, not our own.

This situation also serves as a reminder that our lives and our world are interconnected.  The measures currently being taken by individuals may affect others whom that individual does not even know.  How many businesses are being affected because people are staying home rather than going out to dinner?  When the NBA cancels the rest of the season, we think, “No big deal. They’re all millionaires anyway.”  But what about those who work at the concession stands, or parking, or maintenance at the arenas?  As Christians, we are called to consider how our behaviors may impact others.  How do we obey the command to “do good to all men, especially those of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10), in the midst of a pandemic?  There may be no easy or one-size-fits-all answers, but we must ask the question as it pertains to our individual situation and that of our families.

In a similar way, ought we not consider how we might be affected by others?  It could be quite easy for us to listen to the panic happening around us, to listen to the prophets of doom, and be filled with fear.  But Paul tells us that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7).   If our confidence is in the God who reigns, we cannot then allow fear to reign.  The One who calmed the storm calls us to trust. He calls us to have faith, and not fear.

There is so much more to say, but allow us one more reminder before we move on to more practical matters.  The first question of the wonderful Heidelberg Catechism is as follows.  May it be an encouragement to us all.

Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?

A.  That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

So, what does this all mean for the church, its members, and attenders? 

Governor Cuomo has instituted a ban on meetings in excess of 500 people.  RMBC clearly does not fall under that ruling.  That being the case, for now, we will continue to meet as usual.  However, everyone ought to take common sense precautions.  We are being told to wash our hands frequently, and to avoid unnecessary physical contact.  Perhaps it would be prudent to avoid handshakes and hugs for a time.  Certainly, if you have any indication that you are unwell, you ought not be around others.  These are simple things which all of us should practice.  For good measure, we have placed hand sanitizer in the foyer.

However, if you are in a high-risk category which, according to the CDC, includes older adults and those with chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease, then you ought to be even more careful.  If you are in a high-risk category, you ought to give serious consideration to all of your activities, including church attendance.

For instance, Elder David has, in the past, suffered from heart disease.  However, having had his heart repaired and being under the care of a cardiologist, his doctor has told him that he is at no greater risk than anyone else his age. He will, therefore, continue to worship with us. Others who are currently in a high-risk category, may very well make a different decision. In that case, the service will continue to be available on YouTube, or we can provide a DVD.

In the end, we all must make our own decisions based on the best wisdom we can muster.  May God give us that wisdom as we seek to balance all of the priorities of life.  Above all, we want to love, serve, and worship Him.  We also want to be good stewards of the bodies which He has given us.  We also want to protect our own families, our brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as our neighbors, friends, and co-workers.  These responsibilities are not always easy to balance.  But let us press on, in faith, seeking the glory of God, even in the Coronavirus.

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