In recent times, I have noticed a subtle, perhaps even deceptive schism which is building within the Christian community due to the recent Covid-19 virus. The schism mirrors the generational issues surrounding the virus as well. The issue, in my mind, seems to be so subtle that I believe many Christians are failing to notice the effect that they are having on their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. In fact, the issue is causing the Christian community to become isolated spiritually, just as the virus is causing us to become physically isolated.
The subtle issue that I am writing about is often couched in terms of how different Christians react to the closures of churches and the variety of ministries that are postponed or cancelled as a result of suggestions by our government officials.
On one hand, I see Christian social media posts and hear Christian conversations that suggest that such closures, cancellations, and adherence to government officials is nothing more than a sign of fear: a fear that is often linked to a lack of faith. Some Christians will use Bible verses like Matthew 6:24-38 and 2 Timothy 1:7 to justify an (almost) defiance in the face of the current events. This defiance is not, I believe, done with malice. Instead, this defiance is likened to a faith that sees beyond fear. In fact, let’s call them the “beyond fear group.”
On the other hand, I see Christian social media posts and hear Christian conversations that suggest that such closures, cancellations, and adherence to government officials is not fear, but is done in a measure of caution for others, thus is likened to love. Those who are proponents of these precautionary measures will use Biblical verses like Romans 13:1-2 and Luke 10:27 to support their position and to encourage others to follow suit. We will call them the “love/authority group.”
The problem with these two opposing positions lies in this: that we are using God’s word to justify our behaviors while condemning the behavior of the other group.
For instance, the language of the “beyond fear group” leads one to believe that the “love/authority group” is not trusting in the Lord because they are not throwing all caution to the wind of God’s will. This group is often the same folks who will bulk at locking the doors after the church service starts, requiring mandatory child training sessions each year, and putting financial procedures in place. This group indirectly believes that what happens, good or bad, is the will of God and must be accepted.
The irony of the “beyond fear group,” is that the very thing they accuse the “love authority group” of, which is lack of trust, is exactly what the “beyond fear group” suffers from. They suffer from a lack of trust in the authority of the government God has put in place: they suffer from a lack of trust in someone else being in control: they suffer from a lack of trust in even church leadership to make decisions. The “beyond fear group,” often lives in the fear that they rile against.
Unfortunately, the “love/ authority group” fares no better. In calling for a respect of governmental authority and a call to love others as themselves, they often portray themselves as self-righteous when compared to the “beyond fear group.” “I mean, after all,” I have heard implied, “if they really knew about love then they would not open the church, or hold ministries, or even meet with people. I mean, what kind of example are they setting about the church and Christianity.”
Like the “beyond fear group,” the “love/authority group” ironically allows their language to reveal that they do not love or respect authority. For they look down on their brothers and disrespect their right to not give up meeting. By their attitudes they scoff at their fellow believers and hint that their Christianity cannot be as strong because they are not loving in the same way as they have chosen to show love. By their proclamations the “love/authority group” suggest that unless you close, you can not possibly love God or your neighbor.
Now, perhaps, these are overstatements, and the best intentions are meant; however, that is, where I believe the subtleness of this conflict rests. Without even realizing it, our language has staked us in one camp or the other. Without even thinking about it, Covid-19, and the fight for our position, has turned us against each other and isolated us.
So what is the fix for this subtle mess? Might I suggest the following:
We are nowhere near the end of this situation; however, we should recognize that it is not Covid-19 virus that is tearing Christians apart, but it is ourselves. And because it is ourselves, we can choose to end the conflict.