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Update from the President: May 21, 2020

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Update from the President

May 21, 2020

Truth and Respect in an Age of Pandemic

“What is truth?” Pilate asked, as Jesus Christ stood before him almost 2,000 years ago (John 18:38 John 18:38Pilate said to him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, I find in him no fault at all.
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). This has become a timeless question, universally asked of many things in many times and places.

Millions of people, including church members, are asking the same question in our current age of the COVID-19 epidemic. In this age of uncertainty and inadequate information, many people have questions, like: “What is this virus? Where did it come from? Is it part of a world conspiracy? What should be done?”

This novel coronavirus has unleashed a painful and costly global pandemic. It continues to directly inflict severe illness and death for some, while indirectly inspiring fear, distrust, anxiety, mental and financial distress for many. How should we as Christians respond in the face of this crisis of increased human suffering? What shall we say and do, as Christ’s ambassadors to this world, that will be remembered in God’s future Kingdom?

In times like these, people want answers, and they want them now. When media sources and government authorities say things like “there’s so much we don’t know,” some people respond with “that’s not good enough” and seek their own answers. Political division—already keen and fractious on both sides—only grows. Trust is in increasingly short supply.

An important point: the outcomes of this cacophonic division are proving almost as troublesome as the virus itself.

As government authorities at all levels struggle to cope with health remedies for the pandemic, opinions and alternative solutions grow. In the Church of God community, many hold to a focus of looking for natural treatments. On the other hand, many accept and seek traditional medical treatment. All seek healing from God (James 5:14-15 James 5:14-15 [14] Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: [15] And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
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) but may choose different paths to support that healing.

Regarding this, it is important to note here that as a Church, we are not experts in the practice of medicine. For instance, the Bible does not teach that immunization is a sin. Also, while the United Church of God positively teaches that being immunized is a medical matter and is not sin, the Church also does not judge those who, because of conscience, choose not to be immunized.

We emphasize respect for the personal decision made by the individual. The issue may grow more complicated, especially if local governments require vaccinations for participation in public schools and the like, but we still recognize respect for personal decisions.

We have also experienced that in dynamic human existence, whenever there is a crisis, fresh belief in conspiracy theories will abound. Unresolved fears fuel a search or an openness to consider alternative information, particularly today on the Internet. In the subjective political world, one person’s conspiracy theory can be regarded as another person’s truth.

In this vein, recently a controversial video production has grown popular as an alternative political explanation for the origin and spread of the coronavirus. The video production, titled Plandemic, has entered the mainstream, with subsequent millions of views. Instead of reassurance, comfort and human solidarity during a painful crisis, it promotes division, assumes evil motives and sows doubt.

Let me speak plainly, but with respect. Promoting such thinking certainly must not be our legacy as ambassadors for Christ. Instead, as citizens of heaven we must rise above this world to reveal hearts of mercy, kindness, patience, forgiveness, compassion, humility and love (Colossians 3:12-14 Colossians 3:12-14 [12] Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; [13] Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do you. [14] And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfection.
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). We must think differently. We must remain alert and consciously reject the deceit, anger, rage, malice and slander which surrounds us in this present evil world.

In some Church of God communities, this video production and other alternative explanations of the origins of the coronavirus have produced increasing confusion and division.

As we have stated many times in our publications and on the Beyond Today program, we recognize that science does have a positive role (the exception, of course, is when someone attempts to elevate scientific principles over God). We also fully recognize and teach the biblical principle that “God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33 1 Corinthians 14:33For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
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, emphasis added throughout). The New Living Translation makes this even plainer: “God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s holy people.”

So, what then is our role in this matter? It is not the Church’s role to judge the veracity of productions like Plandemic. As stated, we are not medical experts. But it is the Church’s role to teach and preach what Jesus commanded us: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34 John 13:34A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
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, English Standard Version, emphasis added throughout).

Can we fully grasp what this means? This command is critical for the success of the preaching of the gospel! “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (verse 35, ESV). Love asks “How can I help?”

How we treat each other represents a vital part of being a light to the world (Matthew 5:14-16 Matthew 5:14-16 [14] You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. [15] Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light to all that are in the house. [16] Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
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). It means we have respect for each other. It means we refrain from posting things that can cause offense. It means we don’t provoke one another negatively (Galatians 5:26 Galatians 5:26Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
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We in the Church of God hold a major advantage. We have the sure and unbreakable words of Jesus Christ: “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known” (Luke 12:2 Luke 12:2For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.
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, ESV). We can be certain that truth will prevail, the very truth that Pilate asked of Jesus.

So, what is truth? There is one conspiracy that we can be certain of. Our world is being held captive by an evil force—and that is not a theory. Satan is the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
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) and works to deceive the very elect of God. There is an unseen force directing the minds of humanity to accept any kind of “truth”—as long as it’s not God’s truth. Satan works tirelessly to deceive and obscure. He likes to make it hard to discern right from wrong. This is where we need the Spirit of God to judge wisely and show us the way. God has a Plan, a Plan that is guaranteed to work out well. That is where our hope should lie. God is totally in charge and He reveals the final outcome to us.

We will likely experience uncertainty, trials and tests for some time. Accordingly, in the days ahead, let us set aside that which is uncertain and causes division. Instead, let us embrace what Paul teaches: “Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us” (Ephesians 5:1-2 Ephesians 5:1-2 [1] Be you therefore followers of God, as dear children; [2] And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us, and has given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling smell.
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, New International Version). In these times of seeming uncertainty, let us not be paying attention to speculative theories, but let us be fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother and soon coming King, “the author and finisher of 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.
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  • Kcrane

    Presented like a true peace maker, it a very timely fashion . Thank you for your message.