Wow! What a week it has been. Historic. Unprecedented. Surreal. These are just a few of the adjectives used to describe our current experience with the coronavirus pandemic. And it seems the disruptions to our lives keep coming in waves. I think only a few of us imagined two weeks ago the changes we are seeing now. As I write, the recommended size of groups gathering is 10 or less; just last week it was 200!
The impacts of these disruptions are real and palatable. No school for our children. No classes on campus for college students. Restaurants and theaters closing. Long-planned trips and vacations postponed or canceled. Many of us are now working from home, and an increasing number of us are not working. Schedules and routines have been upended. The effects are emotional and increasingly economical.
As we enter together into this crisis, I have been reminded of the early Christians. After the Ascension and Pentecost, life was good for the new Church. Conversions and baptisms were numerous. The general feel within society for this new community was favorable. And then, suddenly, the attitudes changed. It began with the conversions of many Jewish priests and Stephen’s miracles among the people (Acts 6:7-8). The Jewish leaders saw a threat to their power and way of life, so they plotted against Stephen in a similar way that other leaders had plotted against Jesus—they coerced people to lie and say that Stephen had committed blasphemy. And as with Jesus, they held a mock trial where Stephen spoke the truth about their hearts and they executed him, with Saul’s approval. That very day, the lives of Christians were disrupted in ways they likely never anticipated. Saul (who, after his conversion, became known as Paul) instituted a rampage of persecution against believers, arresting as many as he could. Those not caught fled Jerusalem to other cities and towns. Life for them would never be the same.
Humans by nature seek comfort in routine and normalcy. We like to have things we can count on—the people in our lives, our jobs and economic security, and the routine of daily life. Yet, what always seems to happen when we have these things is a development of independence from God. I don’t necessarily mean by this a rejection of God or a lack of faith in him. Rather, we lose that sense of how much our lives depend on him. We begin to take what we have for granted, as if it will always be there. And the more secure we feel in our present lives, the less we seem to lean on the Lord and the more we tend to forget our total dependence on him.
Disruption, then, becomes the Lord’s “flash grenade.” It stuns and disorients us for a short time, with the intent of bringing us back to the reality of our absolute need for him. It creates the opportunity to cry out to him for help, to confess our arrogance of trying to live without him in our daily lives, to repent of our sin and return to him.
Regardless of the source of this pandemic, we know two things that are true: 1) the enemy wants to use it to sow fear, despair, and death; and 2) the Lord has overcome the troubles of the world and will use this for good (Romans 8:28). I wrote previously about the good I imagine coming out of this, but one thing I want to highlight a bit more is that we move from having the Lord on the periphery of our lives to the very center.
There is only one way to do that. We must confess our arrogance, our attitudes of self-sufficiency, our lack of love for one another, and our spiritual laziness. Most of us who are believers have grown way too comfortable spiritually. We have centered our spirituality around the routines of going to church, trying to be a good person, and living our lives with the idea we are Christians and have the Lord as our Savior. Yet, if we read Revelation 2-3, we see the Lord calling to repentance believers who thought they were doing pretty well. In some ways they were faithful, in the same way in which we are, but there were also significant blind spots in their lives, where they fell short of what the Lord commanded of them.
In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says this: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Often, this is used as an evangelistic tool (“Invite Jesus into your life.”), but Jesus was not addressing unbelievers, but believers! He was telling the church at Laodicea to stop being lukewarm about their relationship with him and invite him back into the center of their lives, to have ongoing intimate fellowship with him.
Isn’t this what you and I need to do, as well as the church at large? This disruption in our lives currently is an opportunity to set things right and as they should be. We can humbly come to God confessing and repenting of our sins, rejoicing then in his mercy and grace toward us, and begin again to truly walk in the ways of our Lord, knowing our very existence comes from and is dependent on him. God can then once again use the Church as a powerful means to transform our nation, just as the scattering of the believers far and wide in the 1st Century transformed the known world. In other words, we begin again to live the Christian life like we mean it, with gratefulness, humility, passion, and in power coming from the Holy Spirit.
© Jim Musser 2020