It’s Saturday night, I’m sitting on my couch, and I’d like to share a couple thoughts with you about the last few weeks. Then I want to leave you with a thought from the Apostle Peter about how we ought to respond in cultural moments like this one.
The words that have been bouncing around in my head this week are words like “fragile” and “unreliable.” This pandemic, and our responses to it, remind me in many ways that this life and the culture we live in are fragile and unreliable. I see this in two ways.
First, I have dear friends who are in the high-risk category for COVID-19. Some are at risk because of their age, and others, like my friend who had a double-lung transplant, are at risk because of their medical condition. We’ve been reminded of how fragile our bodies are because of the rapid spread of this virus, and the fear it has induced. We are “frail children of dust, and feeble as frail.”
Second, this event is a reminder to us as Christians that the world and culture we live in are fragile, and not to be relied on.
Let me give you an example. Before this pandemic happened, our economy here in the US was doing really well. On the whole, things were moving in a positive direction and I know many people, myself included, have been happy to see a lot of the changes that have been made. It has been reassuring too, and that’s an important thing for us to recognize. But suddenly, in the space of a few weeks, we are left wondering if the whole house is about to come tumbling down. This is not the first time our economy has been thrown into upheaval by any means, but every time is certainly a reminder from God that our world, with its government and economy, is always fragile. So don’t rely on it. We may be tempted to cry out, “this kind of thing wouldn’t happen if it weren’t for _______.” But as true as that may be, the point is that until Christ returns, there will always be people that can fill that blank for us.
I think a lot of earthly idols are being exposed for us here. Idols of stability, of comfort, and even the idol of having a certain kind of culture now. All those things can be taken away, after all, and yet we can still bring glory to God, which is what matters more than anything. America can be taken away, and we would still be able to live faithfully and glorify God.
However, there is someone we can always rely on. God is not fragile, and he is not unreliable. And if we have been given the power of the Spirit, we can respond to moments like this with peace. Active, joyful, engaged, and intentional peace. There is a kingdom being built, even now, that will never fail.
As Christians, our default status is defined by Paul in Philippians this way: citizens of heaven. Paul and the churches he ministered to lived under a psychotic ruler named Nero, who hated Christians and even burned a city and framed Christians for it, and yet Paul and those churches lived as citizens of heaven. It wasn’t easy, but it was possible through the Spirit. The early church lived under the threat of martyrdom, and lived with faith and joy. We have Christian forebears who lived (or perhaps they didn’t) through horrific plagues and outbreaks of disease and they did it in a way that left the unbelievers around them shocked by their peace and their compassion. Even now, many of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world have already been living under the reality that there is no way they can rely on their culture or government.
As an aside- very dear friends of mine who are also ministers and preachers are suggesting that this event, and it’s fallout, are a direct judgment from God against our nation and this world because of the terrible sins that are being committed (like abortion, slavery, homosexuality, and greed). That’s entirely possible, but just being honest, I don’t see how we can know that for sure, biblically. God brings calamity for others reasons too and hasn’t specifically told us what He’s doing through this right now.
Anytime people are given over to their sin and forced to wallow in the effects of their sin, then that is God’s judgment on them. So in that sense, yes, this is a judgment of God. And we also know that situations like this are always a time to call for repentance, as Jesus did when the Tower of Siloam fell in Luke 13. Isn’t it interesting, however, that Jesus simply declares the need these people have to repent, and actually refuses to discuss whether the Tower fell on those people as a direct judgment against them?
Jesus’ statements about the Tower of Siloam remind us that we absolutely need to preach the Gospel of repentance for sin and faith in Jesus at times like this. We have a great opportunity. The only way to escape the certain and eternal judgment that is coming is if people repent and believe now. In the same way, recognizing the fragility of our bodies, our culture, and our governments provide another great opportunity for us to talk about why we so desperately need God’s Will and His plan. Let’s take those opportunities!
So, let’s remember what we should be trusting in, and relying on. Let’s recognize that our bodies and our culture are fragile and unreliable. God is not fragile, however, and he is not unreliable so let’s be faithful, not anxious. Peter writes to Christians who are living under Nero, who hates all of them, and the Apostle does not say to be passive. He doesn’t say to put their heads in the sands. But he also doesn’t say to fear what’s coming, to throw aside the calling to be holy, compassionate, and loving. Here’s what he says:
7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.