I am not afraid.
If you read my blog last week (Who Will Be the Canary?), you probably noticed that while I look forward to returning to worship in our church sanctuary, I prefer to err on the side of caution. And, as I noted in my greeting yesterday morning, I find it a little odd that we are being told that it is safe to return to corporate worship (with proper spacing) but day cares, sports teams, and others are being told to limit activities to groups of ten. Similarly, hospitals nursing homes and other care facilities remain closed to visitors and family members. In that environment, I am just not convinced that it is responsible to put nearly one hundred of us in a room together.
I realize that there are several schools of thought on this issue. A few of my colleagues believe, and have made it clear in online forums, that such cautiousness will harm church attendance and membership. But I am not so sure. In 2016, the entire Chipotle restaurant chain lost customers and revenue when 55 customers were sickened by the e coli bacteria in seven states. The damage to sales (attendance) took years to repair. An outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in your local church would be a major media event and, if we’re going to use church attendance as a measuring stick, would have an even more profound impact than cautiousness. In any case, while we are making plans to return to corporate worship in our sanctuary, I think it’s more important to put the safety of our members ahead of worries about attendance.
But I am not afraid.
While there have been many posts on social media that churches (and pastors) should simply have faith, and trust that God will protect us, this isn’t an issue of fear versus faith. While I have seen reminders about how God protected Daniel in the lions’ den or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, I don’t think that they apply here. Yes, they all had great faith and, yes, God protected them, but at the same time, Daniel didn’t volunteer to be thrown to the lions. And, realizing that Shadrach and company were bound hand and foot prior to their attempted incineration says something about their willingness to participate in the experience.
Yes, Bible heroes the likes of Moses, Gideon, and David are lifted up as people of great faith, and they were. But it pays to remember that they were also cautious. Moses was content to raise sheep, for forty years, until God commanded him to return to Egypt and promised him divine protection. Gideon led Israel’s revolt against the occupying Philistine army, but God spent days convincing him that the voice he heard really was God, and that God really was promising that Gideon wouldn’t die in the attempt. Yes, David volunteered to fight against the giant Goliath, but David had spent years training with a sling and stones and had used them to fight against a lion, a bear, and other wild beasts before he did.
Being cautious doesn’t mean that we lack faith. It just means that we choose not to risk our lives foolishly.
Let us take the time to understand our enemy and the weapons we have at our disposal to fight against it.
Let us be careful, cautious, and listen for God’s voice.
The heroes of our faith did these things too.
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