No one has a crystal ball on the pandemic we are experiencing. Opinions and predictions abound. Business leaders want to get back to work, while normally mild-mannered medical scientists are screaming extreme caution. Politicians are stuck somewhere between those two voices. The rest of us are left scratching our heads and shrugging our shoulders, unsure of anything. One thing we can count on is that the pandemic will test our collective character.
The Big Mirror
A few years ago our church hired a consultant to help us improve everything we do. They sent in “secret shoppers” to experience our Sunday morning worship services. After a few months of that, we met for a day of hearing everything we were doing wrong … and what little we were doing right (tongue firmly planted in cheek). The experience was excruciatingly painful, exhausting … and extremely helpful.
They called it “The Big Mirror.”
It’s not always fun to look at yourself the way other people see you. Focusing on every blemish can sometimes be painful, but it can also be helpful.
The Bible teaches us that trials and difficulties do two things at the same time — They build character and they reveal character (James 1:2-4). For now, I’m more concerned with the later.
Christianity is not new to pandemics.
In one famous example, the church historian Eusebius describes a fourth-century pandemic that swept through the Roman Empire. In a day before medical research labs, the only way to avoid an epidemic of this proportion was to flee. Most did. The Christians, however, took a different approach.
Eusebius reports that “all day long [Christians] tended to the dying and to the burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them. Others gather together from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to them all.”
As a result, Eusebius concludes, “[the Christians’] deeds were on everyone’s lips, and they glorified the God of the Christians.”
Wow! What a testimony!
The Christian Character Revealed
The pandemic of 2020 will hold a “Big Mirror” to our faces and reveal who we are — collectively, as a nation, and individually as human beings. No one will escape the Big Mirror — not even the church.
What will this global trial reveal about you (as a Christain) and your church? Here are a few ideas on how we should respond.
“Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing” (1 Tim. 2:8).
This should go without saying, but let me say it anyway. We are a people of prayer. Prayer is not one task among many — it is the breath that animates the Christian life. Jesus gave his life to give us access to God (Hebrews 4:14-16). To ignore that access is tragic.
If you’ve never been a praying person — this is a great time to start!
“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good …” (Titus 3:1).
There is a time for civil disobedience (i.e., Martin Luther King, Jr. and Susan B. Anthony). I do not believe this is one of those times.
I refuse to disparage those who disagree with me on this point. However, I would simply note that the Bible teaches us that the civil authorities are created to bring some order to this world and anytime we choose to be a conscientious objector, we place ourselves under the fiercest scrutiny for having done so. And that’s the way it should be.
Christian should, as much as possible, seek to live in harmony under the rules of the civil authority (Romans 13:1).
“The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor” (Proverbs 22:9).
If you are healthy and can follow the proper health protocols you should seek to serve your neighbor.
Many Christians are squirming because we can’t meet at the physical church building. However, the building has never been the church. The real church — the Christians — still have much we can do. Our worship is centered around the greatest commandment — to love God and love our neighbor (Luke 10:27).
This is a time for the church to rise up, get out of the pews, and make a difference by “loving our neighbor!”
“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thess. 5:14).
As a leader, I know what it feels like to make decisions that impact others. It can be a lonely place. Remember that next time you go on a rant about decisions leaders are making.
I’m sure there will be shelves of books written on this crisis, many of which will take the leaders to task for each and every decision.
There will be plenty of time for the autopsy. Today is the time to save lives, not tear them down. Although I believe leaders should be held accountable, we should strive first to encourage them.
Be the solution, not another whiny problem.
It might be good to end with the words of the Apostle Paul to a beleaguered Ephesian church:
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:31-32).