“I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.” (Philippians 2:25–30 ESV)
A preaching friend of mine told me a story that happened to him a few days ago. A mutual friend baptized a woman “who was just released from the hospital with the covid-19. Then he and others went into ‘unsafe’ homes to teach and help people.”
When he related that story to the local congregation, one of the members said: “What a foolish thing to do.” My friend wrote, “I was speechless . . . for a minute, then I had some things to say to that person.” I didn’t ask him what he said, but I can imagine.
Would that happen where you worship? If your minister or elder or any of the members where you worship were given an opportunity to teach the gospel to a person who was infected with a virus – whatever the virus – would you say that was foolish?
Some might say they need to quarantine themselves for 7-14 days before they could come back and assemble with the saints. Given current circumstances that would be a reasonable request, but what if the teaching was critical for that person, that is, that lost soul was very close to obeying the gospel and needed a bit more teaching and encouraging to become a Christian and that might take a few more classes; what then? The preacher/elder/member could be gone from the assembly for several weeks, maybe months, maybe contract the virus, maybe a part of that small percentage that would be hospitalized, maybe a part of that even smaller fractional percentage that would die. Would that be foolish?
A leader might say we need to send someone else to teach who is less crucial to our congregation. Really? Are there any members who are indispensable to a congregation? Of course we want to be responsible but reread the story of Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:25-30, he nearly died for the work of Christ. Paul wrote about this while he himself was in prison and had just told the Philippians to work out their own salvation in his absence (2:12). Did Paul understand he and his co-workers were helpful for the Philippians? Yes. Indispensable? No.
The point here is that times like these (whatever your opinion is about them) are an unsettling reminder that the Christian life and the gospel message is not to be “put on hold” while things are inconvenient. Think carefully on this for a moment, can you imagine in your mind any possible earthly circumstance that would make the teaching of the gospel foolish or inconvenient? Now wait . . . before you answer that question, remember you may very well have to repeat that answer and reasoning to the Lord Himself one day.
Could you face the Lord at Judgment and tell Him that teaching the story of His crucifixion and resurrection – the very means of eternal salvation for all men – was a foolish thing to do at certain times in your life?
An older evangelist once traveled to an area of the world that had a high rate of deadly diseases; someone said to him: “Do you think that is being responsible?” His response was: “Can you think of a better way to die?”
Dear sweet brethren, we are being tested.