Pointers in the Present Crisis
COVID-19 now has the human race under its grip. We see parallels between the nature of the novel virus and our sinful nature; both intimate separation and stealthily decimate life. We don't, as yet, have a full picture of what is going on with our planet. But we can be certain that the God we worship, in his infinite wisdom, will bring us to a better understanding of himself and our situation.(Romans 8:28)
We are in familiar and unfamiliar territory all at the same time. Conventions that nurture our humanity are summarily swept aside. Corporate worship is disrupted. We are in a lock-down against our will. Safety and fear are endured in physical isolation. Information swirls around us without let up—some of it useful, much of it a vexation to the spirit. "Why me, why us, Lord?" would be merely compounding the physical isolation.
So what might we learn from the current crisis? (John 9:3) Firstly, the reality we are faced with goes beyond the individual person, their family, or nation to include everyone. Secondly, for most people around the world, their lives are "normally" lived on the precipice of military incursions, displacements, hunger, diseases, and injustices of all sorts. Has our shut-in status let us view the plight of others’ in a new light? Are there things we need to repent of as a community of faith? Are we busy interceding for others? (Luke 13:1-5; Revelation 2-3; Romans 8:23-27)Thirdly, the church has turned too worldly is an understatement. This is about holiness, the core of our being as the people of a holy God placed in the world yet not of the world. (1Peter 1:16; John 17:11-19; 1John 2:15-17) And this is about humility, the very character of Jesus. (Matthew 11:29; Philippians 2:1-10)
I don’t believe the Lenten season came on the heels of a pandemic by accident. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection we see once again the power of hope and life proclaimed. "In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:4-5). We are being called to reset those priorities that shape and restore the true meaning of our communion with the Lord and to share them with everyone created in his image.
Fourthly, the fact that corporate worship is disrupted is a wake-up call to return us to the "home as church" we have neglected. Families used to make time to read scripture together, pray together, bond and instill values in their children and hold civil conversations in public. Those ‘chores’ have been progressively outsourced to bible speakers, to "spiritual takes" that distract from getting to the Word, to greater dependence on technology (compare with Hebrews 10:24-25; 2John 1:12; 3John 1:14), to political leaders, and to churches. More often than not, churches are into trendy cultures that by default misrepresent the cross of Christ, making their witness unreliable.
The choices we make come with far-reaching ramifications: If only... we got enough public school walls to hang the Ten Commandments on, we would be OK, went the argument. If only... we could get laws banning abortion, and so on. We make (unholy) alliances, hoping the end will somehow justify the means! We did everything in ourpowers except pray fervently, to grow in the faith and in the knowledge of Christ, and to reconstitute ourselves as "God’s household." Perhaps the greatest threats to the church’s witness have come from localism ("the world needs us, we don’t need the world") and biblical illiteracy! (Hosea 4:6; Matthew 22:29) As a result, many among us are being "tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming." (Ephesians 4:14)
Fissures we see in churches today could be traced back to the quality of our closeness and obedience to Christ. Perhaps the Spirit of God is here using COVID-19 to remind us that, as a community, our center has shifted gravely and needs a total overhaul. Rates of divorce, views on same-sex marriage, etc., in the church and in the general public are increasingly similar. We have compromised a great deal on the truth—the very foundation of our being, and shown tolerance for immorality. In other words, growing in maturity one family at a time would have spared us from being so inward-looking and lacking in discernment, as survey after survey has shown, and instead aligned us with "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable." (Philippians 4:8) It could be we have been busy cleaning the outside of the cup, hoping the inside will be clean as well. (Matthew 23:26)
Choices don’t come cheap either. There are sacrifices to be made. The cross dictates that we walk not in step with our respective denominations or culture but in the footsteps of Jesus, our Lord! Where we get our cues matters. "Who is Lord?" is the one question followers of Christ need to consistently ask but often neglect consistently. Jesus died and rose from the dead to redeem for himself a people and to build for himself a church—"the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth." (1 Timothy 3:15) Would the world seek us out for guidance in these troubled times?
Even as we face death on a daily basis, we are called to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of his name. In the end, the real pandemic may be a worldly lifestyle, humility in retreat, and lack of credibility to hold to account the powerful of this world. The gracious Lord is once again standing at the door of our hearts and knocking. "Restore us again, O God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us." (Psalms 85:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:1)