Question:

I have a random question: What do you think about the arguments people make that if you are sick you shouldn't assemble to worship to God? For example, I recently saw this on the blog of a close friend:

Please be kind and loving (both of which are Christian virtues) and don't come bringing it with you to church services. I know you want to worship the Lord - but I don't think He intends for you to put the health of all those around you to risk.

When you come in saying: "Oh it's just a cold" or "it's just a little virus." Do you even hear what you are saying? Maybe it would be better for you to have it out in these terms: "I have a communicable disease." That means it can spread to others.

Next time you think you might go even though you have one of these so-called trifling items please consider those you may come in contact with. No you may not be hugging or shaking hands, but you are sitting there coughing and sneezing into the air of those in close-proximity and taking that hand you just used to blow your nose with and touching door handles and song books and who knows what else that other currently healthy individuals must also touch. Plus there are small children and old people and possibly people with compromised immune systems (ms and cancer) who are even more susceptible to your germiness. Please be kind - act in love - stay home and get better.

That's a typical example of what I've heard. On the other hand, I've...well, I've been sick plenty of times over the years, but I can only remember one time when I chose not to go to church because I was sick. And that was because I felt so exceptionally terrible, not because I was worried about making others sick.But it is something I wonder: am I under some obligation (an application of love your neighbor, I suppose) to not assemble when I'm sick? I can understand the case being made, and it sounds very good and pious and loving, but on the other hand you're telling my I have moral obligation to not worship God? That sounds suspicious if anything ever did. I really can't think of any Scripture that directly deals with this kind of idea, just very general principles like "love your neighbor," and I just don't know how to apply it here.

I'd appreciate any insight you have.


Answer:

Just last Sunday it was mentioned in the business meeting how easy it is to excuse your absence by saying I wasn't feeling well or one of the kids weren't well.

I'm much like you. It is extremely rare that I don't make services. The day I had gallbladder surgery, I came to Wednesday night Bible study because someone I had studied with wanted to be baptized. I couldn't do the baptism, but I sat at the side helping the man do his first baptism. (I did "pay for it" the next day, but it was well worth the cost.) I've preached with colds, though I will tell people not to shake my hands since I wasn't feeling well.

Colds and other germs are a part of living in this world. I do believe in treating them and limiting their spread, but I figure that if I'm able to go to work, I ought to be able to worship God. I think that is the best test. I can't tell you how many people who have told me they weren't feeling well and won't be at worship who are later seen at the store or when you call to see how they are doing the next day you find out they are at work.

I do love my neighbor. It is the Lord who tells me that my presence at worship is important to my fellow Christian.

  • "Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19).
  • "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Colossians 3:16).
  • "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:24-25).

I can't do these things if I'm not there. Have I picked up colds while at worship? Definitely. Have I spread a cold? Probably. Has my presence ever harmed anyone? Definitely not.