It was like a joke last year as nation after nation began to shut down in a bid to contain an invisible enemy that was crossing territorial barriers to invade every available life. True to human wisdom, containing the spread required isolation. This isolation would require avoiding public gatherings like markets, shopping malls, clubhouses and pubs, churches and mosques, schools and theatres, and several others. Unprecedented in my lifetime, it all looked impossible and unsustainable. World economies would cripple, and mental health problems would balloon into another pandemic. It must be short-lived and not last beyond a couple of weeks. But alas we have lived with various restrictions for almost two years.
My first approach was to look into the Bible for answers. The Law of Moses was focused on personal and national life. It emphasized righteous living and nation-building. The New Testament is however more focused on our spiritual lives and relationship with God. The arrival and operation of the kingdom of God is the concern of the New Testament. Looking into the Old Testament, I saw isolation in scripture as God demanded Old Testament folks who were infected with communicable diseases to separate from the rest of the people as a means of controlling the spread. Supporting governmental efforts made every sense to me and I, therefore, encouraged it. Looking back today, I have no regrets about that because scientific data support the fact that isolation, masking, and even vaccination, while not perfect solutions have contributed immensely to reducing the spread of the dreaded disease and the rate of fatalities.
However, it has also been my observation that many governments, especially in the western world are quick to shut down churches while still allowing other forms of public gatherings and socializing. While restaurants, pubs, and clubhouses are reopened with minimal restrictions, churches are either closed up or opened with extremely stringent rules. This development suggests a silent conspiracy against Christianity and we must read between the lines and legally and peacefully resist it. Our rights to freedom of worship are clearly enshrined in most national constitutions and must be fought for. Why so quick to shut down churches and so slow to reopen them if not for a silent war against the church?
One positive development out of the pandemic and the attendant regulations however is the rise of the church to the enormous opportunities of the digital space. It is an opportunity that was not being fully harnessed for evangelism but we have seen an increased awareness and commitment, especially during total lockdowns. Never to allow themselves to be caught unawares again, churches have remained strong on social media and the digital space. It remains possible that with the advent of new variants of the coronavirus, restrictions and lockdowns may return and we must therefore not let down our guards in the digital space.
One great concern for me though is how many believers have lost their passion for God and for His church. Online churches have become the permanent replacement for multitudes of Christians who have chosen self-indulgence over the sense of responsibility they once had to serve in the house of God. The excuse they give their pastors these days is “I attended service online.” The Christian life goes beyond church attendance which is fundamental (according to Hebrews 10:23) to evangelism which is not only done personally but in the community. Further is the importance of Christian service. No Christian life is healthy without active participation in a function in the organic body of Christ. Many believers have abandoned their duty posts since the advent of COVID in the spirit of self-preservation. They lack spiritual sensitivity to discern that their spiritual lives have grown weaker, their love for God colder, and their faith smaller. Fear and anxiety have sucked the life out of their confidence in God’s Word. The spirit of the antichrist has been working in these subtle ways and believers had better wake up and smell the coffee.
As scientists have predicted, new variants of the coronavirus are being detected and more will be in the attempt the virus to survive in the face of human attempts to annihilate it. The path of wisdom is to keep doing all we can naturally to survive but much more hold on to God’s Word for our survival in these times. Cutting church attendance out of our lives while we shop at busy malls and markets, travel through busy airports, and attend social functions is not the solution but a succumbing to Satan’s subtle ploy to uproot our faith from its very foundation.