The ultimate model of substitution and sacrifice was Christ, who gave his life so that we might live. We also might think of soldiers, first responders and others who step into danger to protect and serve.
But what if laying down your life didn’t always look like physical death?
What if it looked like dying to self?
Religious leaders and religious political figures have in recent days suggested that to suspend in-person worship services and Bible studies, to stay home from work or school and to do anything other than resume a normal life indicates a lack of faith.
They are wrong.
This is not the same situation as a group of Christians who meet despite the risk of death or persecution, knowing that if they are imprisoned or killed that their courage and faith would shine light in a dark world. Though they are afraid they meet, they meet.
This isn’t Daniel praying openly and without regard for the physical risk to himself.
Nor is a church bodily isolating themselves the same as the disciples who hid in the upper room after Jesus’ crucifixion, fearing to go and boldly proclaim Christ.
This is something entirely different.
When the Church answers the call of social distancing, they are not doing so out of fear or lack of faith.
They do it out of what the scripture calls power, love, and a sound mind.
God has given us the power to overcome our fear through faith. This power is what makes martyrs, yes, but it is not the only thing we were given.
We were also given the gift of love. The sort of self-sacrificing love that God gives to us. Do we love our neighbors enough to, rather than dying for them, die to ourselves for them? Do we love them enough to protect the unsaved, the vulnerable? Do we love others enough to shift how we worship, where we pray, and with whom we share our time?
In addition to power and love, God gave us the reason of a sound-mind, the gift of discernment and judgment — if only we would use it.
Particularly in an age of technology, where there is no shortage of the ability to see, talk, share, and be together while physically separated, it is not only unwise, but it is sinful to knowingly and deliberately put the lives of others at risk.
It is not fear that keeps us out of the churches and away from corporate worship during this pandemic. It is love.