Resources for the members of the United Church of God

Personal From the President: October 14, 2021

You are here

Personal From the President

October 14, 2021

A Time for Respect and Biblical Clarity

We heard the news about the death of our fellow brother and pastor Randy D’Alessandro early on Wednesday. He was actively serving God in the Chicago (Illinois) and Beloit (Wisconsin) congregations. We deeply appreciated his expository sermons and are deeply grieved by this tragedy and loss to the Church.

And now as we all settle back into daily routines after the Feast of Tabernacles, I want to encourage, even urge, all in the Church of God to do so while “keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:2 Hebrews 12:2Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
American King James Version×
, New Living Translation). It is Jesus Christ, identified by the apostle Paul and others as “the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18 Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
American King James Version×
), Who, in a titanic spiritual encounter with Satan, the adversary, positively declared that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
American King James Version×
quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 Deuteronomy 8:3And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.
American King James Version×
, emphasis added throughout).

Why do I write this? We live in an unusual and challenging time. Thankfully, the United States (and the world) appears to be coming off a taxing, even deadly, surge of the Delta variant of COVID-19. But after nearly two years of this pandemic, many of us are worn out. We know that unrelenting fatigue often lowers, even compromises our immune systems. That is especially true for those of us who are 60 and above.

Now, particularly in North America, we near the time of the annual flu season. Here’s an important challenge for this time: the onset of this variant of COVID-19 often mimics the sinus symptoms of a bad cold or flu.

Thankfully, we hold the blessings of the broad principles of healthful living outlined in the Bible. One of those principles—the biblical principle of self-quarantining—helps prevent the spread of disease and helps protect us. In the Bible, the plague of leprosy is mentioned some 68 times. Biblical leprosy likely comprised a number of devastating, different, but highly infectious skin ailments, possibly including what is spread today by the Mycobacterium leprae bacteria, fostering a feared debilitating condition that can waste the body and is still found in parts of the world.

In recognizing it and advancing a path to recovery, the biblical principle is plain and direct. If, upon examination, the Israelite priest found evidence of “a serious skin disease . . . the priest will quarantine the person for seven days” (Leviticus 13:3-4 Leviticus 13:3-4 [3] And the priest shall look on the plague in the skin of the flesh: and when the hair in the plague is turned white, and the plague in sight be deeper than the skin of his flesh, it is a plague of leprosy: and the priest shall look on him, and pronounce him unclean. [4] If the bright spot be white in the skin of his flesh, and in sight be not deeper than the skin, and the hair thereof be not turned white; then the priest shall shut up him that has the plague seven days:
American King James Version×
, NLT). Further, additional steps directed that an afflicted person “shall put a covering upon his upper lip” (the New Living Translation renders this they must “cover their mouth”) and take other measures to help protect the disease from spreading to others (Leviticus 13:45 Leviticus 13:45And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bore, and he shall put a covering on his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean.
American King James Version×
, King James Version). John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible commentary notes that this “covering” represented “a linen cloth or vail [sic] thrown over the shoulder, and with which the mouth was covered; and this was done, as Aben Ezra [a prominent Jewish commentator from the 10th century] says, that the leper might not hurt any with the breath of his mouth.”

The point? If symptoms of a cold, flu or other infectious disease begin to appear or are evident, it is the personal responsibility of members and families to positively put into practice these biblical principles. Appropriately self-quarantining is an act of loving one other, protecting other members and families of the Church, particularly those whose resistance may be lowered from fatigue and stress, or may have less effective immune systems because of age or other conditions.

Rightly practiced, quarantining during a time of infectious disease reflects the twin commands of Jesus Christ in loving one another (John 15:12 John 15:12This is my commandment, That you love one another, as I have loved you.
American King James Version×
) and in living by every word of God (Deuteronomy 8:3 Deuteronomy 8:3And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.
American King James Version×
, Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
American King James Version×
).

Positively applying these principles has been taught and practiced within the Church of God for several decades. Long-time members may remember sermons and sermonettes advocating positive quarantining to slow and prevent illnesses that were delivered before the regular Holy Day seasons when many people gathered together.

What’s the personal outcome of this? If you feel ill or suspect that you (or a child or other family member) are “coming down” with something (particularly if symptoms include sneezing, sore throat, coughing or other sinus issues), you should stay home. In this unusual time, don’t suppose, “Oh, this is just a mild cold.”

In this Internet age, there exist plenty of ways for members and families to connect with live services or be spiritually fed through streaming sermons or even DVDs and CDs of messages in many areas. Such connectivity can provide a meaningful alternative, and some congregations (like the Los Angeles congregation) offer opportunities for online fellowship after services.

Of course, this does not minimize or change the foundational principle that healthy members should not neglect the assembling of ourselves together to worship and fellowship in person (Hebrews 10:25 Hebrews 10:25Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.
American King James Version×
). And as a pastor of more than half a century of experience, I know firsthand the earnest yearning of people—especially those shut-in or older—to meet and fellowship together. For many, it is an emotional hardship to miss services and the opportunity to see and be with dear friends.

But, as I wrote earlier, these are unusual times. And we should understand that quarantining with purpose is biblically acceptable, even when an assembly on the Passover or the Feast of Tabernacles is commanded. The Word of God warns that there are serious consequences for willfully missing the taking of the Passover. But the same Word of God teaches that highly unusual circumstances (including illness or other issues) may arise that force members to miss observing this solemn occasion.

In the case of the Passover, God makes possible the delayed observance of the Passover (due to unusual circumstances) a month later (Numbers 9:6-13 Numbers 9:6-13 [6] And there were certain men, who were defiled by the dead body of a man, that they could not keep the passover on that day: and they came before Moses and before Aaron on that day: [7] And those men said to him, We are defiled by the dead body of a man: why are we kept back, that we may not offer an offering of the LORD in his appointed season among the children of Israel? [8] And Moses said to them, Stand still, and I will hear what the LORD will command concerning you. [9] And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, [10] Speak to the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover to the LORD. [11] The fourteenth day of the second month at even they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. [12] They shall leave none of it to the morning, nor break any bone of it: according to all the ordinances of the passover they shall keep it. [13] But the man that is clean, and is not in a journey, and declines to keep the passover, even the same soul shall be cut off from among his people: because he brought not the offering of the LORD in his appointed season, that man shall bear his sin.
American King James Version×
). There is no condemnation or adverse judgment for legitimately exercising this.

If we’re sound and healthy, we should be attending services, fellowshipping, and positively assembling together. If sickness or suspected illness is within our household or personally afflicting us, then we should follow the biblical example of quarantining ourselves.

I also want to emphasize that we have an additional personal responsibility to our spiritual brothers and sisters. Paul emphatically teaches us: “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4 Philippians 2:4Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
American King James Version×
). If we know that people are afflicted or suffering from any illness, those brethren should be high up on our prayer lists. In this day and age, we have many ways we can stay in contact with each other through email, text messages, phone calls and personal notes or cards.

It is no accident that the Bible teaches us: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11 Proverbs 25:11A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
American King James Version×
). Gold sells today for more than $1,700 an ounce. Your words of heartfelt encouragement are worth a lot more than that.

Today is a time for respect and biblical clarity. As we enter this time of seasonal illnesses, let us surely live by every word of God, positively following the command of our Elder Brother Jesus Christ in loving one another. Let us intelligently and faithfully practice the biblical principles of protecting each other, of quarantining and covering our mouths when appropriate.

And when we know of others who are afflicted or unable to enjoy the priceless and life-enhancing opportunity of personal fellowship, let us reach out and extend care, actively “encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25 Hebrews 10:25Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.
American King James Version×
, English Standard Version).

Please pray for Mary D’Alessandro and the entire family for comfort at this most difficult time. Our hope is the Resurrection and trials of faith such as this make this hope real to all of us.