The amount of carnage and suffering experienced this year will not be calculable. Some have endured so much pain and destruction. There has been suffering directly related to the virus—illness, death, uncertainty. And then fallout in the wake of the virus—lost jobs, lost relationships, isolation, depression, anxiety and death.
Then, there has been all the other normal suffering. The curse did not say, “Well, I’ve done enough related to the virus and things, so, I’ll pull back the reigns elsewhere.” It’s been a very difficult year for so many.
Add to that various governmental responses to the pandemic. No doubt, civil leaders have been in difficult positions, with difficult decisions before them. One of those has been the mandatory lockdowns. I don’t know what it’s like to serve as a civil ruler in these dark days. But there are some things we can say biblically and ecclesiologically about lockdowns.
Among other things, we know this: the virus has not been the most dangerous and harmful thing to the church. Discerning brethren said that from the beginning.
Since then we’ve had months and myriads of alarmist waves crashing over us. Now, a new set of mandatory lockdowns are among us. Mandatory universal lockdowns are abusive to society as a whole, though they may be situationally wise for some at times. The effectiveness of locking down to stop the virus from spreading is highly questionable. The detriment to society financially, socially, and emotionally from locking down is not. But that’s beyond the scope of this discussion. More to the point, lockdowns can be harmful to the society of the church.
The Apostle Paul taught that the entire law is summed up in loving your neighbor (Gal. 5:14). But in these times, “love thy neighbor” has taken a new form..
To preach mandatory universal lockdowns under the guise of “love thy neighbor” is hermeneutically abusive, however.
“One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5). Add to that, God commands his people to walk by faith, fear him alone, practice the one another’s (e.g. Eph. 5:19, Heb. 3:12-14), gather for corporate worship (Heb. 10:24-25; cf. 1 Cor. 11:18a, 20a), and participate in body life in a local church (1 Cor. 14:26). Often all of this requires not locking down and not isolating.
The virus is real. For some it’s harmful. But, God’s way for his beloved elect is to walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7, Heb. 11:1). That’s sort of the all-encompassing way of life. And one mandated way of life for his blood-bought church is togetherness. So, our togetherness as a church also requires faith; perhaps especially in times like these, where we’re subject to large doses of fear publicity and terror-based righteousness.
These are difficult times for public policy makers and society as a whole. Many are suffering greatly in the wake of this virus. Christians lament this and wish harm befall no one. At the same time, we must keep in view the things which God says are essential. To socially isolate might be a situational application of loving one’s neighbor. But, for Christians, there are situations where locking down would not be.