Take the opportunity to practice love, grow spiritually, handle difficult emotional times with grace, and take the next steps in representing Jesus to your world. Bruce Bruinsma
Psalm 24 reminds us, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world and all who dwell within it.”
Our current pandemic reminds us of how interconnected we are with the whole world. We can close physical borders and there are still viruses and relationships that cross over them. Our God transcends it all and we exist in this interconnected space. It seems strange to connect a virus and the idea of relationships. One kills us and the other is essential to life. Both are hard to identify but equally critical to our future.
I spotted an article recently pointing out the unusual increase in the divorce rate in both Italy and China. The author went on to suggest the reason was the quarantine requirements in both countries as they fight the pandemic. The reality of being in the same house or apartment for an extended time with your spouse/and or family should be an opportunity for a deepening relationship(s), not the destruction of it. Time together is so precious, and it is imperative we listen to what Jesus tells us about loving one another and then put it into practice.
With our technology, television, and travel, perhaps we have lost the ability to live together. The family is, or I believe, should be the cornerstone of every society. By filling every second of every day with outside inputs, perhaps there is not enough margin for us to even be together. The most common reason given for divorce in the United States is incompatibility. That’s just a long word to say the parties to the relationship can’t or won’t get along. Are the Christian virtues going the way of the declining church?
In various subcultures of America, single moms bear more children than married couples. The number of single moms and dads is skyrocketing. I believe this single parent reality will come clearly into focus during the next months. With schools closed and single parents still having to go work, who takes care of the kids? It sure would be handy to have a retired grandparent or two around to help. Perhaps grandparents in our churches who do not have children in the area could step in as surrogate grandparents and lend a badly needed hand.
Whenever any system is “stressed” we learn a lot about it. Our relationship systems are stressed in our culture. Again, with the added stress of the Coronavirus, we have the opportunity to learn about our relationships within our immediate family, extended family, and our spiritual families. Not only to learn about building and maintaining relationships, but also practicing the basic Christian virtue of love in those relationships. Here is a contemporary way of evaluating our relationships: I’m wondering if we are willing to share our stash of toilet paper?
Now is a time for church leadership to lead. Lead in identifying and teaching about maintaining and shoring up relationships. Lead in identifying ways we can reach out resulting in our finding new joy in service and extended relationships. It was interesting to note the President and his team trying hard to find its way through the complexities of the situation having mentioned the support they were getting from non-profits. However, they did not identify “Church” as one of those entities.
Has the church become so inwardly focused on itself that it is no longer the voice of Jesus to the people? Has the church become a meeting hall with a variety of self-serving programs? Jesus said, “Go, baptize and make disciples.” In that order and in that priority. He also appointed us as children of God to be His hands and feet to the world and that whatever we do is done in His Name!
I am also observing that a bigger challenge to the church is not out-in-the-open hostility from the world, but a growing trend to be seen as irrelevant. While there are more martyrs to the faith worldwide, in the Western world the challenge is much more insidious. When you become irrelevant, there is little opportunity to effectively deliver any message or to impact the world at all around us. It’s like the child jumping up and down to look in the window and be noticed. A tiring effort yielding little results.
Lest I close on such somber notes, there are multiple examples across the country where Jesus is represented well. Individual churches or groups of churches are relevant and making an impact.
I was impressed with the message sent to the churches by the leader of the Evangelical Covenant of Presbyterian Churches. Dana Allen wrote:
This is all to say – Church is not canceled even if your worship service has been. People need the gospel in word and deed, and this coronavirus situation may bring that need more prominently to the surface. There is a natural fear that arises with an unknown future and the short and long term physical and economic challenges that might occur on a macro or micro scale. However, in the midst of it all, we have an amazing opportunity to be a light for Jesus Christ as we live out what it looks like to be The Church in our communities, right here, right now.
So, all is not lost, yet we observe the drift to irrelevance. During the next six months, each of us in our own way will have unique opportunities to “minister” to those around us. Children, families, friends near and far, our neighborhood and workplace. Whenever there is fear, we have the opportunity to “bring the one who drives out fear” into the conversation by all we do and say. We will have more alone time, or time with just a few people, during the next months of the pandemic.
Here is what I believe is the bottom line: Take the opportunity to practice love, grow spiritually, handle difficult emotional times with grace, and take the next steps to represent the reality of Jesus to your world.
We can all live with meaning.