COVID-19 & Heb. 10:25
Many believers are asking, “Do we transgress Heb. 10:25 by not meeting together due to Covid-19 restrictions?” Here is the passage under consideration:
“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” – (Heb. 10:24-25 – KJV)
I must admit, I struggled with this question considerably as our area moved to the ‘Red’ phase of Covid-19 protocols. For several days I could set my thoughts on nothing else. I prayed, I read and studied the scriptures, I considered the conflicting rationales of other mature and studied believers, I listened to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit within me, and I looked for that stance which brought His affirming peace. There were many views, but I needed to resolve this for myself… in clear conscience… before God.
One restless night a thought came into my head, a directive sufficient to allow my return to sleep and to task me for the coming morning. That thought was this: “Study ‘forsaking.’” Up to now I had been focussing on the meaning of “meeting together.” Was a drive-in service where each family “bubble” remained cloistered in their car truly “meeting together?” Was an online ‘Zoom’ or similar group gathering with digital audio-visual interaction any better? But now I changed my focus from scrutinizing what constituted a “meeting,” and looked instead at what constituted “forsaking.” Here’s what I found…
In the original Greek the word translated “forsaking” in The KJV is ἐγκαταλείπω. It occurs nine other times in the New Testament. It means to abandon, to desert, to leave behind, or leave in the lurch.
Jesus used the word when He cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34). Paul used the word when speaking of his co-worker’s abandonment: “Demas hath forsaken me…” (2 Tim. 4:10). And the author of Hebrews assures us of our Lord’s ever presence, citing “…for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Heb. 13:5). Other passages also hold forth this idea of utter abandonment (see Acts 2:27, Rom. 9:29, 2 Cor. 4:9, and 2 Tim 4:16). Attempting to capture the meaning of this word more accurately, more recent translations make it “neglecting,” “giving up,” “abandoning,” to “quit,” or to “hold aloof.”
As always, God looks upon the heart. The believers I talk to who have been unable to attend church due to Covid-19 restrictions have not in their hearts “abandoned” church attendance. On the contrary, they miss these gatherings greatly and long for the day when it will be deemed safe for them to gather together again.
We feel the same loss when we miss church due to some extended illness, a protracted winter blizzard, a power outage or a sick child. In such instances I believe God is honored by our personal or parental care of these bodies and those of one another’s, His property (1 Cor. 6:20), His temples (1 Cor. 6:19).
This then is my resolution of the question. Others may see it differently. Essentially it is a matter of what you believe are the facts. As I close off this blog I think of the comment of Paul when writing the Corinthians regarding a sensitive item. He writes, “I say this (I, not the Lord)…I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy,” and “because of the present crisis” (1 Cor. 7:12, 25, 26).
So we must each come to our own understanding on this, and respect our differences unjudgingly. As Paul also says elsewhere, “Let every man [i.e. person] be fully persuaded in his [one’s] own mind.” (Rom. 14:5). And “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall.” (v.4).
Brothers and sisters, love one another… and, of course…
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