Professing Christians, During this season of online-only church, you’re fighting a critically important battle.
It’s not against Covid-19, sketchy personal hygiene, or questionable social policies. No, the forces of hell are trying to slowly and subtle squeeze you into into a cynical, consumeristic survivor mould. If they succeed, you will emerge from this crisis a mere shell of a human, a derivative shadow of the identity you were created to manifest.
The Apostle Paul reminds us, “Do not let the world squeeze you into its mould” (Romans 12:2, Phillips Translation). That’s the battle we should be fighting. Let’s unpack what the world’s mould is, so we can be sure to reject and overcome it.
ONE: Fight cynicism.
As the Covid-19 crisis unfolds and gradually recedes into our rear-view mirrors, endless analyses will multiply. Fingers will be pointed. Cover-ups will be exposed. Heads will roll. Scientists the world over will disagree with each other, and so will we. I hate to break it to you, but hindsight will not become 20/20. In the midst of this uncertainty, it will be tempting to adopt a suspicious, doubting, disillusioned posture towards people, policies, politicians, and life in general.
May I remind you that we are believers. Our faith is secure in God through Jesus, who proved himself trustworthy by predicting his own death and resurrection, dying for his enemies, and then fulfilling his promise on the third day. The Apostle Paul says that love “always trusts, always hopes” (I Corinthians 13:7). To believe in Christ means to never give up, to give people the benefit of the doubt, to defiantly look to the infinite possibilities opened up through faith in Him (Ephesians 3:20,21).
TWO: Fight consumerism.
Unless we’re working in a field deemed essential by our governments, we are now more than ever living and breathing as consumers. We stand in line as a way of life, conscious of how many people are ahead of us, thankful for the people behind us, waiting impatiently for what we want and need, hoping other people won’t get there first. When we’re consumers, everyone else is competition.
Even our church experience is now splashed onto a flatscreen, broadcast through a medium designed for watching vs. participating, consuming vs. caring. Don’t like your pastor’s preaching? No problem, there are fifty thousand others to choose from. Maybe I can watch X church for preaching, Y church for worship, Z church for Kid’s programming. Or watch them later, when I feel like it. Or not. You are being trained to be a consumer, and to do your job well.
May I remind you that we are servants, not consumers. What we’re all realizing now is that what we used to call “serving” was dependent on structures created by other people so we could do our part. Today we’re having to wrestle with what serving looks like when it’s entirely up to us to figure out and follow through on. There are hurting people all around us that need us to be the encouraging servants God wants us to be. And the church needs you too! My next post will unpack How To Serve the Church in a Digital World.
THREE: Fight survivalism.
John Krasinski types aside, much of the world is firmly in “clench my teeth and get through this” mode. Survivalists are stockpilers, keep-to-themself-ers. I must say, I’m more than a little disappointed when I hear well-meaning pastors telling their people that they don’t have to try to make the most of this crisis.
The Apostle Paul says, “Make the most of every opportunity, for the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:18). This is because we are overcomers, not merely survivors. There are specific rewards Jesus is reserving for those that overcome (James 1:12, Revelation 2:7,11,17,26, 3:5,12,21, 21:7). The newest NIV translation swaps the phrase “to him who overcomes” with “to the one who is victorious.” This is what we do, what we must do. There are opportunities to be seized, even in the most evil of days or seasons.
Last night our Life Group met via ZOOM and I was reminded that even if the worst occurred—if I contracted Covid-19, was hospitalized, suffered, and died—I would still wake up in heaven with a high-five from Jesus congratulating me on my victory. Because I have eternal life in Christ, there is no scenario in which I will look back and think, “this defeated me.” No matter what happens—death, suffering, grief, loss, mental breakdown—I will eventually look back and say, “through Christ, I was victorious.” This is not dependent on my self-effort, gritting my teeth, or raging against the machine. It hinges on me believing that the One who defeated death, the ultimate Overcomer, the Consuming Fire himself, is alive and well in me.
I challenge you to defy the cynical, consumeristic, survivalist mould. I dare you to be a believer, a servant, and an overcomer in Christ. Christ in you is aiming at no less.
Remember to check out my next post, How To Serve the Church in a Digital World.