The Covid-19 pandemic presents an interesting new test to the practice of faith in Christian history
YOU shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free!
The exclamation there is added to underscore the gravity of the statement.
The famous words of Yeshua (Jesus) as quoted by the author Yochanan (John) have had countless believers over millennia querying what the truth is or could be. The pursuit of truth has naturally given rise to more questions, such as: Is that truth alluded to absolute or relative? Can the authors of the Bible be taken literally at their word? Or are words,uttered several millenia back and tanscribed or translated, many hears later, be taken litterally or should they be read and understood in context and applied to preveailing circumstances here and now?
And if these words were applied in the very present, what is the truth? What is the truth in this muddled world of information and misinformation?
That exhortation and invitation to know the truth is all the more relevant, if not urgent for the believer and the citizen of a nation-state.
The truth shall set you free. Oh, what a pity it is for those who profess to follow and believe the Messiah when all they do is keep searching for that truth! Perhaps it is the believer’s lot to spend his living years searching for the truth until the door of consciousness shuts him into the world of the dead and unknowing.
Then the quest for truth will have indeed ceased.
The quest for assurance likewise is an ongoing journey. The psalmist says, “surely, He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence.”
Well, a pestilence is here; where now is the deliver’s hand the psalmist sounded so sure of?
The pestilence has pitted ruler angainst subject and the battle is somewhat skewed. The unseen common enemy is having a field day while people are fighting those who try to do all within their ability to save them. (The genuine at least). In the process, the unseen enemy lurks ominously and people are fighting, questioning as harassing each other instead.
The believer, if he were a genuine believer, would submit to civilian authority. So says Paul in his epistle to the early Roman church.
Should the believer who believes he knows the truth then submit to a civilian authority that issues an edict that is opposed to the truth?
Misinformation (definite untruth) is feeding into the fears and doubts of those who are still trying to shift through the clutter and pick out the truth.
What of the church and its leadership? The pandemic control measures are affecting church activities drastically, forcing some congregations to suspend all activities while others divide into smaller groups, family gatherings at best, to keep the fire of fellowship and worship buring.
At a recent gathering of church leaders at Saroa Village in Rigo, Central the differing views on what to do during the pandemic, although subtle, were apparent.
Most leaders present acknowledged the church’s role and its place, and the believer’s duty and submssion to civil authority in such circumstances.
Nevertheless, the point was made that church activity should not be suspended altogether to conform to civil authority, fearing that this could have serious repurcussions ofn the believers faith and life in general.
It was suggested that at times such as this that the church should be at its most vibrant, excersing in the most radical fashion its faith.
The battle is basically a spiritual one, the devil may be using the unseen virus to drive the church into timidity and fear. This is precisely when singing praises to God (like the Jewish leader Jehoshaohat in 2 Chron 20), is expected to make all the difference. Or should.
In other words, in a pandemic, while the rest of the world cowers and goes indoors and shuts itself in, the church should be singing and praising the God who is able to save from the pestilence!
That is taking the written word literally. But common sense suggests that although this could be a demonstation of faith in God, the same God cannot be pushed to do things – unless he has expressly told someone one to do as in Jehoshaohat’s time.
He is sovereign and no mortal can bend his arm even when one is at the point of death, even in the midst of pestilence.
That the differing opions were apparent at the Saroa church gathering is expected as there was a mixed bag of leaders representing three main groups of the Christian faith. These are the mainline churches who affiliated to the PNG Council of Churches, the Evangelical Alliance and the Body of Christ made up of the Pentecostals.
The differences in opinion on the state’s control measures during the pandemic are expected. But by and large, all are agreed that vaccination should be encouraged and freely promoted to Christian believers of shades. Whether to get the jab is up to the individual.
An assertive flip on Cain’s question “Am I my brothers keper?” was the theme of the Saroa workshop.
“Am my brother’s keeper.”