I suppose my biggest disappointment during all of this is the small concern others have shown over the harm caused the spread of the gospel. We don't dare invite people to services or even into our homes for a study. If a few do come we greet them with thermometers instead of open arms. We aren't allowed in the hospitals and nursing homes to visit and hold services. My husband's own prison ministry was called to a halt by the state for several months and now that he is allowed back in he is limited to one third the number he had attending before, no matter the size of the room, or the number who desire to come, and even with masks on. Plus the inmates now have to do paperwork to request a pass to attend, something they never had to do before, and sometimes that paperwork gets lost or delayed and interested people cannot be there. When I mention these things, does anyone express any grief over the souls that are being lost? No. We're too busy counting virus cases, most of which people recover from.
I wonder what Paul might think if he were alive today. What keeps coming to me is his exuberant joy when he heard that the gospel was being preached, even while he was in prison, even while he was in chains, even while people were attempting to cause him even more trouble while doing it. What does he say about that? "I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, " (Phil 1:12-18).
This is not to make light of the virus. I am truly sorry that some people have died. I know personally some who are grieving and I have ached for them, prayed for them, and done the little I was still allowed to do for them. But for the life of me, I cannot understand why we as the people of God are not openly grieving over the harm done to the cause of Christ, why someone isn't standing up and saying, "This is hurting the spread of the gospel," and weeping aloud about it; "This is killing the ones who were already weak," and bewailing it.
Greeting one another with a holy kiss" (Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thes 5:26)—or holy hug, or holy embrace, or holy handshake, or holy however your culture greets—cannot be done over a computer monitor or a smart phone. We cannot "show hospitality one to another" (1 Pet 4:9) when we are sequestered in our homes. What does our reward depend upon? In part, it comes because we have not neglected the Lord Himself by neglecting to visit the "fatherless and widows" (James 1:27) and those who were "sick and in prison" (Matt 25:36). Except we have been prevented from doing exactly that. But it seems not to matter at all because we certainly haven't caught the virus, have we? Rejoice!
We two are being careful, yes. We are in that "high risk" group. We have managed to stay well, despite taking a few chances here and there, like Keith continuing to go to the prison whenever they allow it, and both of us holding the Bible studies in our home and the willing homes of others that were in place before the world fell apart. And it hasn't kept us from mourning as we see the damage being done to precious souls. If the church had a flag, it ought to be at half-mast. Their bodies may be hale and hearty, but the spiritually weak are dying in droves every day as long as this continues, and at a far higher percentage than the physically ill. But do we care? Nope. Not as long as they don't catch the virus.
Well, they did catch the virus, the truly deadly one, the one that is always fatal unless the Great Physician heals us of it. But, God forgive us, no one seems to be mourning over that.
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. (Rom 9:1-3; 10:1).
For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil 3:18).