When it comes to lockdowns, Christians are divided.
On one side, it is argued that lockdowns are the obvious way to love one’s neighbour, as they prevent transmission of the virus. Indeed, various studies have shown that lockdowns do indeed curb transmission not only of COVID-19 but also of the common flu.
On the other side, it is argued that the effects of lockdowns outweigh the benefits, particularly when considering their economic devastation. They argue that the deaths and suffering caused by lockdowns far outweigh the benefits.
The latter point to concerning consequences of lockdowns as the basis for their argument. Lockdowns have:
- Been responsible for increased suicides and mental health spikes.
- Contributed to economic damage which is causing the starvation and deaths of millions in developing nations.
- Pushed ‘hundreds of millions of people towards starvation and poverty.’
- Caused greater deaths in low and middle income nations due to economic damage and shock.
- Prevented people from visiting their dying family members in hospital.
- Directly assaulted basic human rights, such as our freedom to work, freedom of movement, and freedom of assembly.
While all of these devastating consequences are mortifying, the greatest carnage has been the devastating spiritual effects on our souls. What is more disturbing than the virus is a pervasive form of Gnosticism that is infecting our churches.
In the early church, Gnosticism was a heretical religious teaching which emphasised the dichotomy of the body and the soul. Gnostic teachers proclaimed that we are free to do what we like with our bodies because it was only our souls which are saved.
For this reason, the early Gnostics believed that the immorality and pagan worship they were engaged in could be kept distinct from their spiritual relationship with God. What we are witnessing in the church today is a neo-Gnosticism that emphasises bodily health and prosperity at the expense of one’s soul.
Pastor Joel of Right Response Ministries stated it like this: “In our attempts to save the body, we are sacrificing our souls… At the cost of preserving the soul, we are seeking to preserve the body.”
In other words, we have been led to believe that our physical health is the only thing that matters. We have guarded our physical health at the expense of our mental, social and emotional wellbeing. Most importantly, we have forfeited that which matters most — our spiritual wellbeing.
While we should not expect the unbelieving world to understand the value of the spiritual, Christians should be the first to recognise this fundamental truth. It is the church that ought to be communicating the importance of incarnate fellowship. Being together in flesh is where the physical and spiritual most closely intersect, and we see this in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is why the prevailing neo-Gnosticism is so concerning.
In a recent interview, Pastor Jeff Durbin highlighted that the two responsibilities we have as Christians toward one another are: 1) to love all our neighbours, and 2) to love all aspects of our neighbours.
Among other things, loving all people means loving everyone in our church, including both those who are at risk of COVID-10, but also with those who are struggling due to the lockdowns.
Loving all aspects of our neighbours means recognising that our neighbours are not just bags of cells that need protection from a virus. The Scriptures are clear that our neighbours are eternal souls made in the image of God who were made for fellowship with God and one another (Genesis 1:27; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 10:24-25).
It also means that the economic welfare of our neighbours is critical to their physical health. We may even go as far as to say that lockdowns may do more damage to the physical health and wellbeing of our neighbours than if they had not been implemented in the first place.
The only weapon against the neo-Gnosticism which has pervaded the church is a Biblical understanding of man as a spiritual being made for fellowship with the living God and one another.