A Message from Pastor Hale
Reactions like these from pagans (an actual statement by a concerned citizen concerning OPS), by those unmoored from divine morality and guilt, made frantic by pandemics, are unthinking and rash. But they are religious. Whether it be masks, singing in church, or having in-person school – murder is the charge of guilt leveled by some of those opposing these activities. But guilt is a religious term. Christians define it by the Bible, not emotion and wild speculation.
The spread of disease is unavoidable for the living. The only way to not be a potential “murderer” by spreading the virus is to not be alive. We are simply the hosts for undesirable germs and viruses. This is not self-chosen and willing, except indirectly by being sinners. When Adam fell, we all fell. This curse still haunts us: “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17) But the divine curse of human mortality is precisely the issue that is not being addressed – making death completely another person’s fault – instead of owning up to the personal guilt before God which makes death a just sentence of condemnation.
Guilt is accountable to God, as David says: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Ps. 51:4) The author of justice is the One to whom guilt is owed. Feelings of guilt are not god, nor always correct. We are good at judging others in obvious ways, but fail to condemn ourselves for our in-born rebellion against God’s holiness.
Am I guilty for passing on my hereditary diseases, weaknesses, and imperfect eyesight to my children? Perhaps medically and genetically, but not before God. But my sin I have and will commit from my evil heart I must actively repent of. Participating indirectly in the wages of death and the sinful conditions common to sinners is not the real problem. Every child born must die – if Christ continues to allow this blind world to continue for long enough. We all share in death – death is not avoidable, the modern unbeliever must be reminded. But without a doctrine of original sin, only other people are left to blame, since we cannot try and execute a virus in the public square.
Death is everywhere and it comes in all sorts of forms and means, not just by contagious disease. But the root of all mortality is sin. Death as divine punishment is unavoidable. The only way not to be subject to it is to cease living. But Christians learn to embrace dying to sin, by being joined to Christ who died for our sins: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Rom. 6:3). Christians see death as a door to paradise, because its sting has been removed – the guilt of sin. Our lives are not about avoiding death, but dying the right kind of death – one that is God-pleasing and acceptable in Christ.
Jesus was the guilt offering made for the world – the perfect sacrifice for our guilt. He satisfied not human justice, but divine justice. Whoever turns from his sin is forgiven by the power of Christ’s name. This is a better victory than a completely effective coronavirus vaccine. It defeats all death and removes the eternal torments we deserve, not just the possibility of death from communicable infection.
While a cold can turn into pneumonia, and sadly, will eventually lead someone weak to die, that does not make a little child picking it up at a school playground and giving it to a doting grandfather eligible for death row. Earthly justice must be based on controllable actions – not uncontrollable infections – but alas, people helpless in this pandemic cannot punish a virus, so those at its mercy are being attacked.
But mortality – the fact that we do not deserve to and cannot live on earth very long – and have no say in the matter – is not being addressed. God breathed into us the breath of life, but now our sin has made death a certain punishment, since we are separated from God and His holiness: “Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” (Ps 39:5).
The world wants to get rid of judging tangible actions, real motives, and willful intentions, conflating the potential result with every action that does not possibly prevent the transmission of a virus. This is not just illogical, it is a bad theology of guilt – a false justice. But closing down schools or wearing non-medical masks is not guaranteed to stop an invisible virus, nor will it – or anything you attempt – stop death from knocking on your door. Neither will blame stop you from sin’s death sentence.
Today, it is as if every single person actually engineered the virus in his basement, and is purposely spreading it. To equate not wearing a mask, or wanting to be around people, with intentional murder is not just sloppy logic, it is an attack on Christian virtue. It causes people to live in fear, motivating them not to love their neighbor. And love is not simply inaction or avoidance.
Only a dead person, safely tucked in a grave, can be truly loving in this pandemic, it seems. Our God defines love as interacting with others, even when our lives are put in mortal danger: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). Our holy Lord Jesus took on our divine curse, the possibility of disease, our just judgment, and our mortality – in order to die for us. He did not separate Himself from sinners facing eternal death. He came to give life by joining us in the flesh of man and now shows us divine love in taking away the fear of death, which we are privileged to show forth in good works to those around us. Do not apologize for this privilege, but use it for others!
Interacting with others to help them in a Christian way is not murder, even if death is the tragic result. God judges the heart, but we cannot. Death is always the result of sinners breathing in this world. We want to blame someone, but not ourselves. We want to control and guilt others, but go easy on ourselves. Only when sin is personal and deadly, does Christ the Lord over death and sin offer full release.
Human guilt is easy to throw on others. Yes, we are murderers, but not for failing to social distance, or going to church to hear of Christ’s victory for us over death. In our hearts and minds we fail to honor God’s justice and law. We think in human terms, thinking we deserve to live and prosper, but we do not as sinners. Only the Gospel of Christ can give confidence in the face of impending mortality: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:13-14). Jesus, the righteous Son, faced death for us, so we can face it without fear. Our hope does not stop at viruses or the possibility of death. We die to sin, in order to live in righteousness with Christ – to be resurrected to glory in this very body of death.
Only free from guilt and the slavery of death can we live in this world as Christians, putting others before ourselves and mortal fears. Do not live in the blame-game mentality of the world. We have Jesus’ death in us, the solution to the problems that actually cause all death. The resurrection is our hope, not avoiding possible dangerous interactions. Christians have conquered death by faith in Christ. They need not live in fear, casting guilt like a net around everyone they see. We have true life, enough to share with the dying and hopeless.
Mask guilt, white guilt, wealth guilt, and every man-made idea of guilt, are all too shallow and limiting. Real guilt before God must be hammered home to damn us fully, so it can be removed by the forgiving Word of Christ. Hatred is murder. Looking down on any neighbor, and blaming him for your sin and mortality, is murder before God. And we answer to Him alone. He alone can forgive, and He does. Christ did not social distance Himself from us and our death. Amen. --ed