Saturday, May 23, 2020

Church Reopening and Lack of Enthusiasm

CMCO stands for conditional movement control order. MCO started on the 18th March 2020 and soon it will be 70 days next Tuesday. Life under the MCO has changed forever. Church life has also changed. It is an irony of ironies that for some church leaders when it was business as usual before the lockdown, they were all for church services but now think reopening of churches for worship is not that urgent. Before the MCO, people encouraged others to attend church. Now with the light at the end of the tunnel, some refuse to see the light and insist, to quote, "We will wait for the Ministry of Health to inform us that Covid-19 is no longer a threat to public health". This is a defeatist statement at its worst. No government in the world can guarantee any sort of health assurance. Covid 19 may not go away and we might have to live with the threat of the viral infection for years to come. We just need to adapt and stick to the SOP as a given in our daily lives and also during public outings and gatherings as and when permitted. Ultimately, our lives are in the hands of the living God. Yet, let's look at the facts. Malaysia is probably one of the safest countries in the world with much credit going to the government for quick action in imposing MCO on 18th March which took many people by surprise. But it turned out to be a great decision when compared with UK that seemed to waver in the early weeks and now they are suffering in terms of death rate and daily new infections.
Singapore is a different case in point as among the community-at-large if you exclude the foreign workers, the rate of infection is low and the death rate is even lower. But make no mistake. It is a disastrous policy to exclude migrant workers in the Covid-19 count as outside the local community. They, the migrant workers are just as much part of the community as anyone else as they live in the island republic. No manner of political posturing, semantics, nomenclature and word-twisting could do away with discrimination and injustice towards foreigners and God will hear their cry for justice (Deut 24). Are their lives not as precious as the locals, citizens and permanent residents?  The ongoing infection is still a great concern when more than 500 new cases are detected almost everyday among migrant workers quarantined in their enclosed and crowded dormitories where social distancing is almost impossible to implement.

But I am more concerned about the spiritual health of believers. Some are lulled into thinking online services are an acceptable substitute and they have the comfort of their homes, instead of meeting together. Even with the latest allowance in Malaysia come 10th June when 30 people are permitted to meet in church premises, I can't sense any enthusiasm for church reopening. Why is that so? The devil has deceived some and frightened the rest into submission. Don't they know that it is essential to our faith that believers meet regularly as shown in the book of Acts? Does not the epistle of Hebrews say that, "neglect not the assembly of the saints when you see the Day approaches" (Hebrew 10:25).

In the past fortnight I studied the history of Europe during reformation when plagues struck the city of Geneva. Yes, stricken men and women were quarantined into their homes but church services went on as usual for those who were in good health. John Calvin as pastor even visited and ministered to the sick knowing full well the risks of infection from the plague. But nowadays, it seems people value their lives too much. They are not ready for end-time where Revelation 12 says that those who overcome the devil are those who love not their lives unto death. Christians should show to the nation that they worship the living God. "Fear not!" is repeated 365 times in the Bible, one for a day throughout the year. Yes, we are beset with fears within and without but through God we shall triumph valiantly and in His name we shall exalt. "Fear God, for the hour of judgment is near! Worship Him who made the heavens and the earth" (Rev 14:7).

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