A friend recently texted me a photo of a sign he’d seen in a yard in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It said succinctly, “Wear a damn mask!” His accompanying message: “Any questions?”
Dr. Fauci and the CDC also say, wear a mask. So, that settles it, right? We should wear masks.
But wait, others are just as adamant, like one of the so-called “Frontline Doctors” who proclaimed, “You don’t need to wear a mask!” She said it is because she claimed there is already a cure for COVID-19. Others have claimed masks do little to prevent the spread of the virus.
Many supporters of President Trump say Democrats are evil, crazy, and want to destroy America. Many Democrats, on the other hand, say supporters of the President are racist, evil, and will destroy America. Many on both sides saying the same thing about the other.
And then there are the Christians on both sides agreeing with their cohorts. It is enough to make one’s head spin.
This morning, I read Paul’s second letter to Timothy, and this passage stood out,
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” (II Timothy 4:1-5)
The church in Ephesus was in disarray. There were false teachers and agitators challenging young Timothy’s authority and teaching. Sometimes, we picture the New Testament Church as ideal, without any problems, but all of Paul’s letters were written to address specific problems occurring within the churches he planted. And this letter did the same.
Do you feel as though the Church in America is in disarray? I do. There are so many voices out there saying opposite things. Not just about the COVID-19 crisis, but about race issues, gender issues, abortion, salvation, and on and on. There have long been disagreements, but now those disagreements are amplified by social media. And not only are church leaders and biblical scholars weighing in, but most everyone. People’s varied opinions have always existed, but apart from relatives and friends, they were not well known, with the exception of a letter to the editor or town hall meeting. Now anyone can share their opinion with, literally, the world. It’s opinion overload and our heads are spinning.
In essence, Timothy was faced with opinion overload in Ephesus. Many voices, many opinions. He also faced Roman and Jewish persecution. Paul’s counsel? Keep your head and keep doing the work to which God called you.
Information or experiential overload tends to lead us either to shut down or to fight furiously, both desperate attempts to gain some semblance of control. In other words, we lose our heads. We forget that God is in control. So we run or fight out of fear.
However, what we need to do is follow Paul’s same guidelines to Timothy. He says to focus on that to which we’ve been called. We have been called, first and foremost, to follow Jesus. Our first calling is not to be a Republican or a Democrat, a progressive or a conservative, an activist for one cause or another; our first calling is to be a Jesus follower.
Secondly, Paul says we are to devote ourselves to reading, understanding, and applying the Scriptures to our lives , which he says teach us, rebuke us, correct us, train us in righteousness, and, thus, thoroughly equip us for the work he has called us to do. In other words, to instruct us on how to follow Jesus. Too often, we are Christians in not much more than name only, as evidenced by how we live our lives. Yes, we may be involved in a church, but how many are devoted, as was Timothy, to reading and understanding the Word of God? In a given day, how much time do we spend reading the word—five minutes, ten, none? Through the Scriptures is how the Lord directs us, comforts us, reassures us of his faithfulness, and, yes, sometimes corrects and even rebukes us. And, as fallen human beings, we need all of it.
Finally, he says whatever wrongs we attempt to correct, always base these, not on your opinion, but on the teaching of Scripture. And, please note this, do it with great patience and careful instruction. How many times do you and I, when we read or hear something with which we disagree, want to immediately respond with a counterpoint? I am SO tempted to fire off a response in these situations, but I have learned that to do so risks saying something that will not correct, but only provoke because I have not thought through my response and therefore have not been careful with my words. I just let them fly. My impatience, then, would hamper my call to teach so others can learn.
This is not to say that we are never to share our views on the issues of our day. But it is to say that we are to learn our views from the Scriptures as followers of Jesus, not from the talking points of politicians, activists, or commentators. And then when we share them, we are do so carefully and patiently.
Ultimately, the Lord is still in control regardless of whatever situations we face. Fixing our eyes on him is the way we navigate them. This was Paul’s instruction to Timothy when he was beginning to lose his head. So, too, it should be for us in order to keep ours.
© Jim Musser 2020 All Scripture references are from the New International Version, 2011