It’s Sunday morning and the sun is streaming into my apartment. Yet the world has only one focus right now, and like Sauron’s Eye, we are transfixed on COVID-19 and how it is transforming not only our economic and social landscape but our mental landscape.
And try as I might not to be, my heart is beating a little faster and my muscles are tightening around my chest as I read the latest information from the WHO. And this is where I have the choice, right now, today, to believe or not believe in what I have based my whole life on.
As a Christian, I have often simply ‘believed’ and not tasked myself with much more than settling on what I read and choosing to believe it. And in times of peace, it is so easy to do this.
But we are not in a time of peace – worldwide, we are in crisis. Now, I am not in any way dismissing the atrocities faced around the world over the past 100 years, but the scale of this virus, the speed of its attack and the ferocity of its effect on thousands of people is staggering.
Throughout history, the human race has been decimated by pandemics, but in this crisis, we are experiencing an ever-evolving phenomenon in real-time through social media and news broadcasts and the spread of fear is quickly catching up (or maybe even overtaking) the spread of the virus itself.
People are scared
As I speak with strangers in the supermarket, I hear their fear of food and goods shortages but I also hear fear against other people – ‘they’ is a strong word spoken that says more than what the individual is verbalising. I hear people’s anxiety about their loved ones and about the economy crashing and the conspiracy theories – are they true – and ‘am I just overreacting to all this?’, and so on.
I am not interested in laying blame anywhere so will not speak to who’s fault the outbreak is, which government is doing too little or who is responsible for the perceived food shortages but I am very interested in how we as a society are choosing to respond to this unprecedented phenomena.
We must be the voice of peace in the time of uncertainty
As a Christian, I have always believed that the words I speak have power and can be life and death to those who hear them. I am painfully aware at this point in history how my words have indeed have not always brought the best out of me and have spent this past week reflecting on the power of my words during this crisis.
But it’s not just what words are coming out of my mouth; it’s what I let into my thinking. It’s what I invest my thought life in and how I nurture or weed out those thoughts.
Romans 12:2 says:
And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].
What words are coming out of our mouths? What actions are we displaying? How are we, as sons and daughters of God, choosing to respond inwardly and outwardly to the sudden and sometimes severe changes to our social and daily constructs? Are we aware of the impact of our words on those around us?
Possibly the greater consideration for us as a community is to think about how our individual behaviour will influence our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and other young folk in our immediate circle.
Our children are watching
Our children, especially our adult children, are watching our generation and taking everything in, even if only subconsciously, and they will model our behaviour in this immediate instance and will be influenced by our behaviour and attitudes in the future when it is inevitably their turn to be the ones responding to a crisis.
The words, actions and deeds we carry out in this next 12 months, in particular, will embed themselves into the fabric of the next generation and we must be hypervigilant that our response to COVID-19 and all that entails is Godly, wise and intentional. Now is not the time for reactive fear-based measures. We must be counter-culture.
Time for the Church to stand on the Word
I believe that we have an opportunity in this time to deeply reflect on what we have considered our faith. What we have chosen to believe and stand on is now at the forefront – is God really going to come through for us and are we really going to stand on what we believe?
If we believe what we say we do, our thoughts, words and actions must reflect that. So if we believe that God will provide all our needs according to his riches in glory and that he cares about us more than the flowers in the field, we need to be embracing these scriptures and living them out! Perhaps easier said than done, but this is the time for the church to rise up into the truth of the Word of God and live that truth!
‘ “Therefore I tell you, stop being worried or anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted) about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, as to what you will wear. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothing? “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow [seed] nor reap [the harvest] nor gather [the crops] into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by worrying can add one hour to [the length of] his life? And why are you worried about clothes? See how the lilies and wildflowers of the field grow; they do not labour nor do they spin [wool to make clothing], yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory and splendour dressed himself like one of these.
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive and green today and tomorrow is [cut and] thrown [as fuel] into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Therefore do not worry or be anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted), saying, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ For the [pagan] Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; [but do not worry,] for your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also. ‘
A new day has dawned on the Church
A new day has dawned for our country, whether we like it or not and the church as a whole is in the thick of it: how we congregate, how we worship, how we support one another has been flipped inside out this week and there is no indication of how long we will be in this state of limbo so we must see this as an opportunity to re-establish our values, reaffirm our beliefs and spread the love of God in new and unprecedented ways.
I believe that this starts with our own hearts and minds. With my heart and mind. It starts right there in that secret place of my inner world – how I choose to respond each day and to each unpredictable situation, is the key to how we, as the church, will be seen. How I choose to then outwork my peace into my household and workplace (even if working from home!) and at the grocery store is paramount to how the world will view the church at this time.
So what do we do now?
If we close the doors of our hearts and minds to those outside the church, we close them to them externally as well. I don’t know a single believer who would want to knowingly do this.
Right now, we have the most extraordinary opportunity to take hold of the digital landscape and utilise it to the nth degree – this is when the church can prove that God is not contained to four walls or even to liturgy and programs.
There are currently no walls! Anyone can join. Anyone can partake, and quite frankly, isn’t that the whole point of Christianity anyway? And don’t forget where two or three are gathered together, in My name, I will be there…
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation].
If we can no longer congregate in large groups and show solidarity externally, we must grab hold of what we can do and that is to turn toward each other in more intimate and direct ways.
To look at each other face to face (even if via FaceTime!) and to link arms digitally across the world. To email and text and Snapchat and FaceTime and Skype and WhatsApp – and call on the phone!
What can we do today?
There are no excuses. I don’t’ have all the answers and I certainly don’t know the best way we can work through this phenomenon, but I do know that as we seek Holy Spirit and ask for guidance and wisdom he will provide.
Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart And do not rely on your own insight or understanding.
Let’s use this time to get before God and ask him how to navigate this season. How can we use our resources in the most effective ways? How can we tune in to each other if we can’t be physically together?
As we humble ourselves and ask for his guidance, he is sure and swift to provide it. Now is the time for the church to rise up and be the voice of peace, reason, solidarity, surety, direction and hope.
Why on earth wouldn’t we take advantage of it and watch the kingdom grow?
How are you choosing to respond? Is your church community making changes to services? I’d love to know what’s happening in your neck of the woods 🙂 Share in the comments.