• Committed to community: We were recently contacted by the chairman of a political party in the country of Namibia. We have known Festus Thomas, the chairman of this party, for many years, having spent many nights in his home enjoying the hospitality of himself and his sweet wife. As the chairman of the Christian Party of Namibia, he sits in the Namibian parliament for the purpose of promoting the objectives of the Christian Party. He subsequently argues on behalf of the people he represents from the perspective of Christian principles.
Representative Thomas recently contacted us in order to inform us that the Namibia parliamentary leaders recently met in reference to the possible banning church assemblies throughout the country because of the Covid-19 virus. Festus wanted to inform us that their party won their case, and thus the churches of Namibia would not be ban from assembly throughout the country because of the pandemic. Churches would be allowed to make their own decisions concerning how they would meet, and what precautions they would take in order to protect their members. But the government would not be allowed to hand down any government mandates to terminate church assemblies. The government voted to stay out of the function of the churches.
Unfortunately, this is not the case in many countries of the world that are ruled by atheistic government officials, specifically in those democratic governments of the West where politicians must please atheistic voters. Such governments see no problem with restricting church assemblies. They will often allow pubs to be opened, but ban religious assemblies.
We can appreciate the concern of governments to establish guidelines in reference to all assemblies in order that the citizens be protected from viral infections that are air borne. However, it is interesting to note that South Africa is the most tuberculosis infected nation of the world, with over seventy thousand deaths resulting each year because of this infection. But with such an infected population, the government has never considered banning church assemblies in order to protect the people, neither have face masks been mandated to be worn in public by those infected with tuberculosis.
Some restrictions in reference to air borne viruses are possible in Western countries, but quite impossible in most societies of the developing world. Large cities in developing world environments have populations that are very congested. In these situations, people simply cannot be banned from being together in their communities. This is a reality in the major cities of these countries, and thus the possibility of banning people from socializing with one another is simply not possible. We must be careful, therefore, not to make moral judgments of those nations who cannot carry out in their normal everyday lives Western restrictions in reference to social distancing.
We must not forget that the emotional psychology of human behavior determines the very core of how societies function. When this psychology is attacked by a moral norm that is contrary to God’s moral standards, then society as a whole is under attack. And when the societies within a civilization become unglued with detrimental social norms that are contrary to God, then we know that a civilization is on the brink of decline, if not extinction. And once a civilization morally implodes, then those who survive must pick up the pieces of human fragments and start building again. If one does not believe this, then we would suggest that a good study of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire be in order. Better yet, it would be good to study again how God had to start human civilization over again with only eight people after the global flood of Noah’s day (See Gn 6 – 9).
We were recently in a telephone conversation with a member of the church on the other side of the world. This was a member of a church that before the pandemic days, had an assembly attendance on Sunday morning of about four hundred people. When the pandemic struck, and the elders of the church introduced safety measures in order to protect the body from self-infection, they disbanded the assembly for a few weeks. They did so because most of the members were aged people who had known one another for decades. They were close friends who had known one another for many years. Therefore, the leaders of the church, in agreement with the church, implemented safety measures in order to protect the aged members in reference to any large single assembly on Sunday morning. The members went to meeting in their homes.
This particular church normally met in a building that they had constructed over a half century ago. But health restrictions that were suggested by the medical people of the country encouraged churches to refrain from large congested single assemblies. So this and many other single-assembly churches complied with the suggestions.
Once they returned to a single assembly, they organized their assembly in order to maintain social distancing as best as possible when meeting in the building. As families, they spaced themselves apart from one another in the assembly. If they had to go to two assemblies, they did in order that each family not have to sit close to other families.
But what was a pleasant surprise to us was what this particular member of this church said to us over the telephone. We commented, “We are supposing that the aged members are remaining at home in order to protect themselves. They are the most vulnerable to the Covid-19 virus.” However, the informant member on the other end of the line said, “No, it is the aged who are coming, and the younger are staying away.”
Now that was certainly surprising. Nevertheless, it was quite revealing, and understandable. The older members had for decades formed close friendships with one another. To them, it was not about attendance on Sunday morning in order to comply with some tradition nor legal mandate. It was about long-term friends having the opportunity every Sunday to meet together in worship of God. This was a beautiful testimony to Christian friendship, and the true intent of what the Holy Spirit meant for us to understand from His statements in Hebrews 10:24,25. These older Christians certainly did not show up because it had been ingrained in their conscious to be obedient to some legal doctrine of attendance. On the contrary, they were in love with one another because of decades of mutual friendships. And so it should be.
We would assume that the younger members would develop such friendships in the coming years. Unfortunately, when similar church assemblies were banned in Western churches because of the pandemic, and then restarted, church leaders discovered that about twenty percent of the attendees never came back. The reason they never came back is that they were never there in the first place. “Church attendance” was simply a legal matter, not a reunion of friends on Sunday morning.
So we would conclude that Christians who are in love with one another will always find a way to be with one another. It is their inherent nature, not a command that they would obey. If one’s attendance to church assemblies is still focused on obedience to some legal command, then he or she still does not get the point of the assembly of the saints. Those aged members of the preceding illustration got the point. Their attendance was based on old friends enjoying worship together.
Regardless of any restrictions that may be placed on old friends in reference to protecting themselves from air borne viruses, old Christian friends will always be committed to one another. It is easy for atheistic societies as England and Europe to implement strict measures in reference to social distancing in church assemblies. But when Christians want to remain in contact with one another, they will find a way.
It may be that for a time, as in wars and pandemics, Christians being together may be highly restricted. Nevertheless, they will in some way find a way to associate with one another. This has happened for centuries, and will continue. Fortunately, Christians today in the West have the advantage of the Internet. But this has been a blessing only in the last twenty years. Throughout world history until about twenty years ago, Christians were out of contact with one another during times of great social distress. In fact, the Holy Spirit even suggested that Christians in some areas forgo marriage because of the social distress that had been imposed on the Christian community because of Nero’s reign of terror against Christians in Rome during the 60s. In this case, Paul suggested,
Now concerning virgins [who are not married], I have no commandment of the Lord. However, I give my opinion as one who has obtained mercy by the Lord to be trustworthy. Therefore, I suppose that this is good because of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry [in these times of distress] you have not sinned. And if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless, such will have trouble in the flesh. I am trying to spare you (1 Co 7:25-28).
After Paul wrote the preceding words, social distress would eventually increase against Christians in the Roman Empire. By the end of the first century, and into the second century, Christianity would be made illegal. The result of this in the city of Rome was that those Christians who lived there would eventually have to socially distance themselves in the catacombs (caves) beneath the city of Rome. Some Christians lived and died in the catacombs, while some were caught and thrown to lions in the coliseum for the entertainment of a truly ungodly society. Nevertheless, the power of the gospel eventually prevailed throughout the Roman Empire because Christians refused to be subjugated to the control of government. They chose to serve God above man. The same will happen today. It is simply true in all ages of history that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rm 8:37). That statement was first written to Christians in Rome. It is still true today because He who works in us is greater than he who is in the world.
(End of series. The book will be forthcoming.]