As I write these words, it’s a beautiful Spring afternoon. The sun is cutting through the trees, which are dancing with the wind. The birds are fluttering about and everything around seems ordinary. Yet somehow, “ordinary” is the very last word any of us would use to describe our present situations. We leave our homes quickly, only to return to them in the same manner. We are no longer walking along our streets. We are not gathering in diners and pubs. We are not throwing the ball outside. We are not even gathering for public worship. Not a single thing in our world appears ordinary. Nevertheless, here we are. What are we to do?
Of course, panic is an option. How is that going for you, living from news update to news update? It can become a full-time job keeping up with the various news updates, financial statistics, and presidential reports. We can work ourselves into a frenzy seeking to keep our proverbial ear to the ground. But it does not make a difference to change our current circumstances.
Our obsession with the present can compromise our future. Who or what are you becoming in the midst of these moments? In many ways, the events that occur around us are almost as important as how we respond to them. Certainly, we have the option to bury our heads in the sand, but inevitably we have to come back up for air. Such willful ignorance can only harm ourselves and those around us. We can attempt to leisure ourselves to death. Herein dwells the great temptation to drown ourselves with entertainment. However, no amount of “Parks and Recreation” reruns can actually satisfy us. So, what can we do?
First, recognize our limitations. We are creatures, made in the image of God. That is a loaded statement but one of great comfort. We bear immortal dignity by virtue of being people. No virus can ever take that from us.
Secondly, we are surrounded by fellow image-bearers. The world has been made for more than just you, and it would do us all well to remember that, especially at the grocery stores. We cannot presume that our well-being is the most important thing. We need to look for the good of others, especially those who are already weakened and most susceptible to this virus.
Thirdly, we need to recognize that this moment, though unique to us, is not that unique to human history. Plagues and pestilence are not mere villains from fairy tales. Our world has faced such horrors before, and someday after us, it will face it again.
Martin Luther, the great Protestant Reformer, when asked how to pastor in a season of plague wrote this, “Now if a deadly epidemic strike, we should stay where we are, make our preparations, and take courage in the fact that we are mutually bound together … we cannot desert one another or flee from one another.” (Translated by Carl J. Schindler)
As humans, we are to care for one another. But even more so, as Christians, we cannot idly sit by while others around us are suffering. John the Apostle wrote, “By this we know love, that [Christ] laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16 ESV) Christians, this is our time to shine. We must be praying for more than ourselves.
As Christians, we can face this plague head-on because the worst it can do to us is release us from this body of sin and bring us to Christ. As Christians, we can endeavor and even have joy in these moments because the world is beginning to realize the futility of every other false god. Beloved Christians, your neighbors who do not believe in Christ are without lasting, genuine hope. Give it to them. The gift that is sustaining, you must be shared. This is your time to show Christ in word and deed.
However, in order to do this, you must be relying on the Lord. We must commit ourselves to prayer far more than our news updates. We must bring every fear and dread to God, because He invites us to do so: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting ALL YOUR ANXIETIES on Him, because HE CARES FOR YOU.” (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)
Christians have survived countless plagues, tyrants, and oppressive empires. Beloved, we too shall survive this. Let us use the time God has appointed us to well, as we ponder the wisdom of Gandalf the White, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
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