Churches Have God-Given Duty to Confront Coronavirus Pandemic Without Fear

Date Posted: 3/18/2020

By Bishop Scott J. Jones 

In the wake of the new coronavirus touching our community, Houston-area churches must utilize their platform and presence to respond in a biblical manner. When the world reacts in fear in panic, we have a God-given mandate to be unafraid.

Though fear is often the natural initial response to concerning news, it is not the state of mind in which we are called to live. It’s normal to feel alarmed or even panicked to a degree when sickness is spreading. But as the church, we are commanded to rise above fear. 1 John 4:28 reads, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

Christ commands us in John 13:34 to “love one another as I have loved you.” To obey God and to do our duty as his church, we must love our community well during this crisis, and we must do so without fear. As scripture shows us, when we commit to loving others as Jesus loves us, we can help dissipate fear.

What does it mean to love our community, practically? As with most things, the Bible provides us with instructions for this, too.

In the second chapter of the book of James, the author asks, “what good does it do?” in regards to meeting people’s spiritual needs and doing nothing about the physical. Our current modern equivalent might be simply saying, “I’ll pray for you” to those affected by COVID-19, without doing anything to help them and their loved ones get through the illness. Prayer is of paramount importance, and the local church should be fervently praying for the disease to stop spreading in addition to healing for all those affected. However, we must take physical action as well as spiritual.

We can, peacefully, not fearfully, educate congregations on the best safety measures to take during this time. We encourage you to tune in to services online. We can also provide materials for preventative measures such as extra hand-washing stations, tissues, etc. We can encourage those who work in and attend our churches who feel ill to take rest for their bodies and not risk infecting others. To those who are being directly affected or have loved ones who are, we must extend our support, which may include emotional, spiritual or financial help.

As God’s church, we are called to not conform to the world. Instead, we must have the mind of Christ, and in so doing, discern God’s will. Even though the community may be panicking, we have a responsibility to exhibit peace and love our neighbors.

The outbreak of COVID-19 is a true test of our dedication to carrying out Christ’s commands during difficult circumstances. By depending on God, remaining committed to his word and loving others selflessly, we can drive away fear through his perfect love that he gives freely to each one of us.

Jones currently serves as the resident bishop of the Texas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church and offices in Houston.

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