Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the Lord Until He comes to rain righteousness on you– Hosea 10:12 NASB
Warning: this post begins with a weird personal story that will probably feel pointless to you the reader. It really does have a point. I promise.
This week I did something that’s needed doing for a long time. It involves a houseplant I’ve had for about fifteen years. At one time the plant was truly beautiful. It was lush and green and it flourished. People would comment on it all the time. However, in recent months this plant is looking horribly ratty and sad. The leaves that didn’t fall off turned a putrid shade of green, most of the vines were barren and the whole thing was just kind of wretched looking.
In my humble opinion, a flourishing houseplant is aesthetically pleasing and it serves a useful purpose. Houseplants, especially this particular type of plant purify the air and that helps keep my family healthy.
I like that. A lot.
However. This guy was obviously in trouble and not even marginally capable of doing what he was made to do. So, I pulled it out of its pot, broke up its root system and replaced the old soil with fresh soil. Then I cut off the vines that were no longer producing leaves and literally ripped what was left of them from the rest of the root system. Then I watered it really well and placed it in a location where it will get the optimal amount of sunlight for that type of plant. At this point whether the plant lives or dies is all kind of up to the plant.
As I was finishing up this task a couple of things occurred to me. First, I don’t know how much awareness a houseplant has but if they have any at all this one is probably convinced I’m a total butthead. The plant has no idea that that this was the only way to save it and possibly make it healthy again. Then it hit me that God kind of did the same thing to the church with COVID. Over the course of the last eighteen months God has stripped Christians of things that were familiar, like regular meetings, conferences, small groups and community events. Then He pruned it substantially and now He has put the church back in the culture again to do what the church is supposed to do. We are missing the mark. Bigtime.
Approximately half the people who just read that last paragraph are convinced it means I think God wants all the vaccine holdouts to stop being selfish and get with the program. The other half are convinced I think Christians should stop being lazy and get busy holding the government accountable for the wickedness and stupidity that’s become endemic at all levels of government.
Both groups are wrong.
Truth-be-told we totally missed the whole spiritual point of COVID-19. Depending on one’s theological inclination (Calvinist or Arminian) God either caused COVID or He saw it coming and permitted it.
Either way God had a hand in it.
COVID was meant to be a spiritual wake-up call to everyone, Christians and non-Christians alike. COVID-19 became a reality because we are a people who have gotten really good at denying, ignoring and blocking out the certainty of death (Hebrews 9:27). We have done this because we are blessed to live in a time when death is something that only happens to really old people living far from the rest of society in nursing homes. As a result, most of us tend to live for the now and never give any thought to what might happen after we die. COVID-19 forced us to think about our own mortality because people started dropping like flies. God gave us/allowed COVID-19 because He wanted everyone to reflect on death and change their thinking about how to live life.
Instead of contemplating the transience and fragility of life and turning to God in repentance, most people just got really scared of dying. They stayed scared and mindlessly tried to block out the reality that was right in front of them. It’s the reason why so many were so quick to accept the rather ludicrous premise that a virus might simply go away if enough people hid from it for long enough. No one wanted to face reality and frankly Christians and Church leaders did little to help. Some churches made fun of the fear. Others embraced and even encouraged the fear (1st John 4:18).
Here’s the thing.
It is not the churches job to spiritualize fear by intentionally or unintentionally encouraging and/or enabling neurotic and/or fearful behavior. Nor is it the churches job to take on an attitude of false bravado or moral superiority because the people in the church have no fear of death that they are willing to admit.
The church has one job. That’s it. One.
The churches one job is to point people to Jesus (Hebrews 9:27, John 13:34-35, 1st Peter 1:13-16). Fear is natural when people are dying. We only die once, and people don’t routinely come back from the dead and explain the whole experience so we have no point of reference for what death will be like. The unknown is always scary. Fear of death shouldn’t be ridiculed. Nor, should it be encouraged or coddled in any way. It is not A Christians job to push their personal opinion concerning matters of Christian liberty. Nor is it the churches job to do battle with the government. The churches job is to point people back to spiritual reality. The churches job is to talk about judgment and death and life and how Jesus can bring us forgiveness and peace. A Christians job is to gently remind people that everyone dies and teach them how to do it well. Our job is to be a sensible and loving voice of reason in a world of madness.
Could we just back to our job?