The world had great plans for 2020 – a leap year, the summer Olympics, and the American Presidential election. Instead, we watched the calendar fill with threats of war, out-of-control fires, a global pandemic, and the likelihood of a severe financial crisis. For all our confident expectations about our abilities to handle whatever life threw at us, we found ourselves in the position of being out of our depth. None of our technological know-how or government planned expertise seemed up to the task of stemming the tide of our cascading crises.
For the first time in quite a while, the nations of the West and others around the world have had to face both some severe pain as well as our own inadequacy to ease it. As individuals and as a culture, this pain brings with it some self-realizations, not all of which are complimentary.
With this as a backdrop, we’ve asked several Christian thought leaders for their reaction to the following question:
C.S. Lewis famously argued that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” What are some ways that the pains of our present moment have acted as a megaphone to our deaf world?
[You can either read through the entire list or click on one of the names below to jump to a particular contribution.]
Natasha Crain; Cathi Herrod & Cindy Dahlgren; Jim Daly; Daniel Darling; David Dockery; Michael Farris; Guest Columnist; Kristan Hawkins; Julie Hildebrand; Michael McAfee; Jake Meador; Jonathan Morrow; Jeff Myers; Karen Swallow Prior; Roberto Rivera; Philip Ryken; Mike Sharrow; Owen Strachan; Glenn Sunshine; Andrew Walker; Trevin Wax; Christopher Yuan
To an overly comfortable first world culture, God is shouting that our assumed level of control is just an illusion.
Life hasn’t suddenly become more fragile than it was before; COVID-19 has only brought that fragility to our attention. Our brothers and sisters in third world countries have long been acquainted with what it means to live in the daily uncertainty of insufficient or inaccessible healthcare, food, work, and shelter.
Yet we in America are shocked when these presumed third world problems suddenly confront us, and we begin asking questions about why God allows the suffering and death we are noticing anew.
We are finally realizing that, as Tim Keller has said, “No matter what precautions we take, no matter how well we have put together a good life, no matter how hard we have worked to be healthy, wealthy, comfortable with friends and family, and successful with our career—something will inevitably ruin it.”
With COVID-19, God has shattered our illusions that we can prevent ruination by our clever planning. We are reminded that we do not live in personal kingdoms, but rather that we live in one kingdom with one sovereign King over all.
We can choose to see this challenging time as an opportunity to refocus on our purpose in God’s kingdom or we can choose to see it as a barrier to rebuilding the personal kingdoms we merely thought we had. The first path leads to peace; the second to resentment, frustration, and futility.
Natasha Crain, speaker, blogger, and author of three books, including most recently, Talking with Your Kids about Jesus
We see people all over the world huddled in homes, feeding on a constant diet of news stories offering daily corrections to the previous report. Government officials offer hollow promises, many with their eye on the 2020 election.
Scripture warns against putting trust in man. Jeremiah 17:5 tells us, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength.” Matthew 10:28 says, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”
These warnings point fallen man to a living God, but they also should awaken sleeping Christians. At a time when the fallen world should stand in stark contrast to the life of a Christ-follower, many seem instead to blend in.
We have allowed our blessings to cloud reality and blur our focus. This life is temporary, and those who strive for achievements or security will find themselves as the rich fool in Luke 12 who filled his barns with grain only to relinquish his soul that night.
Humanity easily slips into false contentment. God graciously provides wake-up calls in any variety of personal or collective challenges. 2 Peter 3:9 reminds us, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
May we tremble at the thought of taking that grace for granted, embracing our sins and living a lukewarm life. Because, although God is gracious, He will not be made a fool. The church of Laodicea believed it was “rich…in need of nothing,” not seeing it was truly wretched, poor, and naked, about to be spit out by God himself.
Cathi Herrod & Cindy Dahlgren are with the Center for Arizona Policy.
Tragedy and crisis are magnifiers – unwelcome circumstances that shout out to us, calling attention to underlying situations we might have otherwise ignored or dismissed.
The coronavirus global pandemic has claimed more than 90,000 lives across the United States, but in the midst of the crisis, I’m observing a greater hunger for substance, both in our personal lives as well as in our professional pursuits.
As the nation slowly emerges from the grip of this virulent pathogen, I sense that God is telling us five things:
First, He is telling us, “I am here.” God is in the middle of the mayhem. He is not surprised by it nor perplexed by it. Lean into Him. He will not leave us nor forsake us.
Second, He is saying, “This is not the end, but a new beginning.” Set aside your small, selfish and fearful thoughts. He makes all things new, even us. Look up and beyond your challenging situation. Beauty can come from ashes. We’ve been given a chance to continue valuing relationships more highly, or remember that our lives “are but a vapor.”
Third, He’s reminding us, “Heaven is real.” As the death toll mounts, how can our focal point not turn to life eternal? Built into every person is a desire for life, but we cannot lose sight of what is coming after our journey on earth is complete.
Fourth, He’s reminding us, “Don’t forsake me.” Even Job questioned God’s point and plan. But despite losing his health and wealth, he never turned from Him. Nor should we.
Fifth, He’s assuring us, “I love you.” Nothing is more perfect than the love of our Heavenly Father. He knows. He cares. He understands.
My prayer is that the COVID-19 pandemic will sharpen our longing and love of Jesus Christ. Nothing of this magnitude could possibly leave us the same – so it’s going to be up to us whether this crisis leaves us bitter or better, and more aware of our role in God’s larger story.
Jim Daly is the President of Focus on the Family
What is God trying to shout in the midst of this coronavirus? First, we must be wise about discerning the intent of the Almighty during a time of hardship, as if we are prophets getting a direct word from him on a current crisis.
However, we can ask ourselves what might God want the world to hear in this time? We know it is the heart of the Father, revealed to us by His Son, that the world would know that Christ is the one who has defeated sin, death and the grave and is renewing and restoring a broken world and reconciling sinful people to God. And perhaps in this season, more than any other time in recent memory, human vulnerability is on display.
The coronavirus has leveled the world, from rich countries to poor, and has brought us face-to-face with the limits of human power and ingenuity. Despite living in the most technologically advanced society in the history of the world, we are felled by an invisible virus.
From the neighborhood supermarket to the halls of power in DC, people are having to distance themselves, wear masks, and take extraordinary, unprecedented precautions to avoid getting sick. And for many, the economic devastation is just beginning with so many out of work. These are difficult and trying times and yet the exact right time for people to recognize their need for God.
Our prayer as the Church should be that in the midst of this strange, trying, and often lonely times, the message the world needs to hear is heard: the good news of a restoring, reconciling God. Perhaps out of the coronavirus season, the Spirit will do a fresh work among God’s people and a fresh work in drawing those far from God toward him.
Daniel Darling, Senior VP at NRB, author of several books, including The Dignity Revolution, The Characters of Christmas and his latest, A Way With Words.
We now clearly find ourselves in one of those defining historical moments, representing a genuine paradigmatic shift in our world as we have known it. The global pandemic has ushered in a serious moment for all of us. Perhaps we will now live with a better understanding of what saints in previous generations have faced.
Christians in North America in the 21st Century, in comparison to those who have gone before us, and with those who currently live in other places around the globe, have known little about pain, pestilence, plagues, and persecution. While the impact of this moment has been experienced differently from region to region across the country, with some facing more intense pressures than others, the reality is that no one is unaffected by the events or recent months.
During this sad and strange time, we turn with open ears and hearts to hear afresh from God’s Spirit.
It is a strange time because we have not known anything like this in more than a century, since the Spanish Influenza of 1918. It is a sad time as each day we watch the numbers increase both in terms of sickness and death.
While thousands have been affected directly in this way by the virus, millions have lost have jobs or had their lives disrupted in some manner in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Trying to connect the dots and make sense of this time of suffering is not easy.
Unfortunately, most of us know little about patience and waiting. Many people acknowledge how weary they are of this time of disruption and volatility. Christian commitment, conviction, care, and compassion must remain at the top of the list of needed characteristics at this moment.
Ultimately, this is a time to rediscover our complete and prayerful dependence on God. The crisis has revealed that our thoughts about human omnipotence, a wrongheaded and naive sense that we might somehow be in control, have been nothing more than an illusion. Such a recognition could well be the first step toward genuine and Spirit-enabled renewal among the people of God.
While we do not have all of the answers regarding the future, this kairos moment invites a mindset that calls for a fresh awareness of what God might be teaching us as we travel through this unanticipated season, seeking to follow the Lord wholeheartedly in all things.
David S. Dockery serves as Theologian-in-Residence at Southwestern Seminary and as president of the International Alliance for Christian Education.
When we read the Old Testament carefully, we do see God using difficulties, pain, and even punishment on the nations that made no claim to follow the Lord. But this is the exception rather than the rule. Far more often, God permits pain to come to His people to try to get their attention because of wandering hearts and disobedient actions.
The famous verse of II Chronicles 7:14 calls for a people to humble themselves, turn from their wicked ways, pray, and seek God’s face. If such a people respond in that spirit, God promises that He will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.
But as I have heard many Christian speakers use this verse, a significant portion of them point to the evil doers that are external to the church—people that make no pretense of following God. Such an application is not valid for this verse. It is aimed squarely at “My people who are called by My Name.”
I spend a good deal of time defending God’s people and their houses of worship from unconstitutional actions by governments that are hostile to Christian worship and even more hostile to Christians who dare to practice their faith in their workplaces. And I will continue to do so.
But we must not miss—and I must not miss—the central truth from this verse in II Chronicles. If we want God to heal our land, then it is God’s people who need to turn from our wicked ways and seek His face.
That’s a call to each congregation and to each believer, starting with me.
Michael Farris, President and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom.
To a world awakened from sound sleep by the nightmare of a global pandemic, God shouts the truth of our fragility and the magnificence of his sustaining power.
Humankind has cultivated barren lands, built civilizations, and even sent ships to the moon. And yet viruses invisible to the naked eye can bring us trembling to our knees. In truth, we are dependent on our Creator for every triumph, every advancement, every breath.
As we faced our fragility in a turbulent world crippled by pain, God shouts to us to be still. The famous “be still” Scripture—common to flowery prayer journals and bedroom wall décor—is rarely considered in its full context:
“The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts…Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. ‘Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth’” (Psalm 46: 6, 8-10, ESV).
He is God; we are not. And yet—even in His awesome, Earth-shattering magnificence—the Creator declares His goodness in response to our fragility. After reminding us that our earthly lives are like fleeting grass and flowers of the field, King David declares, “But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,” (Psalm 103:17, ESV). Our lives may be fleeting, but His love is not.
Be still, not simply in self-reflection or rest from a busy day, but in awe and worship at the power of your Creator. Be still and bow before the One Who can melt the earth with a word, and yet loves you as a Father.”
Guest Columnist, A writer and researcher working the Midwest
During the past months of Covid-19 isolation, the patterns and very fabric of life have been torn away from us all. Counting your current blessings in a time like this means celebrating our most fundamental gifts as our worlds are narrowed to a few people, to daily bread, and to work for a lucky few — though not all are so lucky.
These few things are really our greatest treasures. Life right now is a little like a house, torn down to the framework, stripped bare to the essentials. We are grateful for the roof over our heads but miss the rest of it. In considering my blessings in the wake of the Coronavirus crisis, I realize that my list was too short.
Before Covid-19, the joys of social interaction, travel, readily available food and a fever-free day did not hold the same value as it does today. Much of my time since I was recruited to lead Students for Life has been spent on the road, talking to the generation targeted with the lies of abortion, bringing a message of hope, as well as training the youth and their peers to make a difference for life. While those things continue, we’ve had to get creative and innovative, moving from campus to computer.
With all things in life coming to a jarring halt, I have forced myself in isolation to become more deeply aware and grateful for blessings I had not considered, and I have treasured the time with my family. Quarantine has caused me to realize that the good gifts around us were extraordinary and far more numerous than I previously understood. When we count our blessings now, the list will be longer, with a newfound gratefulness for daily things we have often overlooked.
Kristan Hawkins is president of Students for Life of America, with more than 1,220 groups on college, university, and high school campuses in all 50 states. Follow her @KristanHawkins or subscribe to her podcast, “Explicitly Pro-Life.”
Pondering C.S. Lewis’ famous argument that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world,” is appropriate as it could be a banner theme for 2020.
First, though, we must acknowledge that we (including much of the Church) have not known we were deaf. In trying to communicate with a deaf person, typically there is the benefit of the deaf person understanding they are deaf. I’m not sure we’ve been operating under the assumption that we are deaf. Our self-sufficiency has been unmasked by this crisis. We have operated as the main course, with a side of Jesus for quite some time. Comfort often affords such cuisine.
However, during these days, what I hear Him shouting to us is what He’s clearly conveyed through His Word: He is on His throne.
In being smack-face reminded of that truth, we also see clearly that we have knelt at lesser thrones of Comfort, Ease, Self, Industries and Infrastructure. None of those are inherently bad, but they do not deserve to be gods in our lives. And when (not if) those gods leave their man-made pedestals, we see what we should have always seen: He is on His throne and is the only One who deserves our worship.
This truth that should both convict and secure us in these uncertain days.
Understand, I say these words to the mirror and in all humility, not merely for others to hear. It has been sobering how much we (the Church) have had to apply words that were seemingly just theories until Spring of 2020. May we praise Him for His patience. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.
Julie Hildebrand is Council for Life Board member and writer at JulieHildebrand.com and various outlets.
The Covid-19 pandemic is the terror of bad dreams and apocalyptic Hollywood blockbusters – only this is no fantasy. The worst part to me is not knowing how long the nightmare will last.
Before this disruption, our world planned for the future as if it was guaranteed. We would confidently chart our path with no acknowledgment of the obvious:
You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. – James 4:14 ESV
A lesson I believe God is using this pandemic to teach us: We do not own the future. God does.
To live life every day as if there is no tomorrow is madness. If truly there was no tomorrow, we should drain our bank accounts and buy up as many ads pointing people to Jesus as possible before indulging in whatever bucket list item is accessible to us.
Yet, to live as if the future is assured is a folly. We are not the captain of our own fate nor the master of our own soul.
We do not know how this movie will end for us. But we can be confident, God is working this out for His glory. With the lies of the past behind us, and the uncertainty of today upon us, may Christians give praise to the God who owns tomorrow.
“To you who boast tomorrow’s gain
Tell me what is your life?
A mist that vanishes at dawn
All glory be to Christ!”
– All Glory Be To Christ, King’s Kaleidoscope
Michael McAfee is the President of Inspire Experiences, Teaching Pastor at Council Road Baptist Church, a PhD student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and author of Not What You Think: Why The Bible Might Be Nothing We Expected Yet Everything We Need. He and his wife, Lauren, have one daughter, Zion, and live in Oklahoma City.
To live as a human being bearing the divine image is to live within a membership, a thick web of relationships tying us to our neighbors and to the Earth itself. You belong to the membership of your immediate family, apart from whom you would not exist. You belong to the membership of your local neighborhood and city, apart from which you likely would not have work. You belong to the membership of the earth itself, apart from which you would not eat.
This is the natural order as God made it and He called it good.
Many contemporary trends in sex ethics, technology, and economics have caused us to forget this. We separate pleasure from fruitfulness and suddenly the family seems optional. We separate measures of economic productivity from the welfare of workers and suddenly the ties that bind communities of people together seem negotiable. We invent synthetic food or simply divorce ourselves from a knowledge of our food supply and suddenly our dependence on the earth seems less real.
The pandemic could, if we would have ears to ear, show us the folly of these separations. It should call us back to a more integral human life that is cognizant of the many, many ways in which we, as the Heidelberg Catechism famously put it, “are not our own, but belong to God” and, therefore, belong also to God’s order.
Jake Meador is the editor in chief of Mere Orthodoxy and author of In Search of the Common Good. He lives in his hometown of Lincoln, NE.
Do you hear God speaking? Perhaps like wisdom crying aloud in the streets for anyone who would listen—see Proverbs 1:20-33—God is trying to get our attention through COVID-19. But what could He be saying? Three messages come to mind.
First, slow down. As the world grinds to a halt and people are told to stay home for the good of others, the pace has slowed. Some of the hurry-sickness we experience every day is dying, and that’s a good thing. There’s time for a walk. A family dinner is now a live option. Our souls are finding a little breathing room.
Next, look up. Once the pace lets up, we can start to see again the life that is before us. We can consider what matters and what doesn’t. So many things battle for our attention. Confession time…I’m far too easily distracted by things that don’t ultimately matter. Like that great moment from the Pixar movie WALL-E when people wake up to what is really around them, we are seeing that the hunger in our souls will not be satisfied with trivial things. The true Gospel story God is writing is far better than anything we could imagine and we all need to rediscover our place in it.
Finally, people are better than screens. Anyone else tired of Zoom meetings yet? Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for technology that helps connect us in important ways, but this moment is teaching all of us that there is simply no substitute for real relationships with embodied people. Something is always lost in translation. Remember when we could hug a friend or shake a hand? Not have to worry about being too close? God designed us for connection. And the virtual world—as helpful as it can be at times—will always leave us wanting (and needing) more.
I hope that I don’t easily forget these lessons God is allowing to be learned during these days. Do you hear the whispers too?
Jonathan Morrow is the Director of Cultural Engagement and Student Discipleship at Impact 360 Institute (www.impact360.org) where he leads their 9-month Christian Gap Year experience and is the author of Welcome to College.
For context, my mission through Summit Ministries is to equip and support rising generations to embrace God’s truth and champion a biblical worldview. The response of our Gen Z students to COVID-19 can be summarized in six words: “I am bored. I am worried.”
Gen Z grew up believing somebody, somewhere could keep us safe by chanting two magical words: “science” and “medicine.” Now daily press conferences irritatingly reveal that politicians and their medical advisors are as clueless as the rest of us, but much more authoritarian than we thought possible. Ideas have consequences.
Ultimately, the most dangerous viruses are not microscopic bits of RNA, but bad ideas. In The Secret Battle of Ideas (2017) I wrote:
The battles we face are more like germ warfare than like military warfare. That’s because bad ideas are like viruses. Bad ideas can multiply out of control, like the spread of a virus that becomes a pandemic. And even though idea viruses cause mass destruction, the battle we face is a secret battle because it’s hard to accurately identify bad ideas until after they have struck.
What is God shouting to us in our pain? That truth is not found primarily in our mastery of the material world, but in the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 say, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Jeff Myers is president of Summit Ministries, www.summit.org
The quote from C. S. Lewis is apt.
I’m reminded, too, of the words of Flannery O’Connor in defending her technique as a fiction writer. O’Connor had a propensity for writing stories featuring freakish characters moments of violence that point to grace. She defended her art by explaining,
The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may well be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal ways of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock — to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.
I wonder if God, the great Artist and our Creator, like O’Connor, sees His audience—in this case, the modern American Church—as “hostile” to His vision.
I wonder if God is asking the Church, “You say you are pro-life? Let’s see how much you will sacrifice for life.”
I wonder if God is asking the Church, “Do you really love your neighbors as yourselves? Here’s a chance to show it.”
I wonder if God is asking the Church, “Have you failed to remember the Sabbath? Let me give you a chance to rest for a while.”
I wonder if God is asking the Church, “You say you believe my Word? But what do I require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with me?”
Perhaps we aren’t being exposed to the virus as much as it is exposing us.
Karen Swallow Prior is Research Professor of English and Christianity and Culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Author of On Reading Well, Fierce Convictions, Booked, Cultural Engagement.
The question shouldn’t be “what are some key things that God is shouting to our deaf world?” but, instead, “what are some key things that God is shouting to His deaf church in the midst of this pandemic?”
Before we presume to castigate the world for its unwillingness and/or inability to hear the voice of God, we should first address our unwillingness and/or inability to hear His voice.
They are dominical commandments; actual rules not guidelines. They are not to be ignored or relativized, any more than actual-rules-not-guidelines about sexual conduct or to be ignored or relativized.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how inequitable our society is. The urban poor, especially African Americans and Latinos, have suffered and died in numbers greatly out-of-of proportion to their share of the population. The same is true of Native Americans.
Then there are prisons, where inmates living in the antithesis of “social distancing” are being given “face coverings that consist of bandannas, rubber bands, and coffee filters,” or told to use underwear.
Yet, with some noble exceptions, the people of God have said “crickets.”
As G.K. Chesterton famously put it, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” Better to shout at other deaf people.
Roberto Rivera is a senior writer for the Colson Center for Christian Worldview
I always try to be a bit careful about saying more than I really know about God’s perfect purposes in the great events of our times. Usually He is up to more than we realize—both in our own personal lives and in the wider world.
It is not hard to see, though, that the latest, devastating coronavirus is confronting us with our own mortality. No one, anywhere, is totally safe from disease and death—that is always true. But when the number of diagnoses and fatalities rises daily, we cannot escape the reality that we too are mortal. This is good for us, because it compels us to think about the life to come and eternal importance of getting right with God.
God is also teaching us to place a higher value on the simple pleasures of ordinary congregational life. If we were ever tempted to take for granted the joyful blessing of being with the God’s people for public worship, or of hearing our voice harmonize with other voices in singing God’s praise, or of receiving the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, well, we don’t take them for granted anymore!
Finally, God is teaching us to be generous and courageous—at least I hope He is. In times of crisis, people saved by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ do not try to protect what they have, but give it away to care for the needs of others.
Philip Ryken is the President of Wheaton College
In 520 B.C. the Jewish prophet Haggai was sent to confront some refugees in Jerusalem delusionally drifting into a comfort-seeking, self-preservation pattern of delayed obedience. Haggai 1:4 is one of God’s “Dr Phil” moments, asking them, “how’s that working for you?” God revealed a divine sabotage at play, calling into light the futility of their short-sighted endeavors.
We now find ourselves asking … What is Church? What if music and teaching were commodities now? Are buildings and programs the essence of Church or tools of mission?
What’s the value of human life? An unborn is the stated price for career ambition per Ilyse Hogue yet the US decided any COVID-19 (born) casualty was worth $30M in stimulus and 30M. What should we sacrifice as a society to prevent the risk of disease, which disease, when, why? Will we demand the end of diabetes, religious persecution, human trafficking, gang violence, or suicide? Which lives matter?
What’s the purpose of business and success – when portfolios can evaporate overnight and federal edicts declare your business “non-essential?” When the music stops and there’s nothing to show for it, what’s the point?
What is government, why is it, who is it, and what is our role in it?
What does it mean to be a Christian in a post-pandemic, economic catastrophe era? Does the Church care about those who look different than themselves in places other than America? Will we fight for justice and liberty for all as ardently as comfort and security for myself?
Mike Sharrow, CEO of The C12 Group, supporting 2,500+ Christian CEOs/Owners and their Key Players across the US, Brazil and SE Asia via peer advisory group programs.
These are beautiful words from Lewis. I believe that God is saying at least three major things to us today.
First, He is calling us to robust transcendence. He is showing us that He is exalted over all things, and by contrast that our lives are a vapor, a shadow that quickly passes, a leaf that crumbles. We need a much stronger doctrine of God than we have.
Second, He is reminding us of the value of timeless truth. We are slowly and painfully sorting out our societal best practices. It turns out in a scientistic, breathlessly-technological age that the only real way to fight a pandemic is to stay indoors. My, how things have advanced in 100 years. Justified sarcasm aside, the truth of God’s inspired, inerrant, authoritative, and sufficient Word is shining all the more in such confusing times.
Third, He is calling us to treasure real presence once more. Our screen-driven era tempts us to live synthetically, but God offers us something far better: embodied presence. Real humanity. Bodily dwelling. We’ve been robbed of this blessing in congregational terms (and in other senses) during these bizarre months, and this is showing us something vital about humanity.
We’re not made to sit alone. We’re not formed for isolation. We don’t flourish in lockdown. The new heavens and new earth feature joyous, bursting life, and we get a foretaste of that here. In this odd segment of time, we’ve been living without the real presence of others. How we long for that here, and how we should long for that in fullness in the age to come.
Christians, along with the rest of society, are divided about the proper policy to follow during the pandemic: when and how do we reopen businesses and churches?
Half the country thinks we should stay in lockdown until things are under control, the other half thinks that this will destroy the economy and cost even more lives than Covid-19. And then there are the religious liberty questions that I don’t need to enumerate. All in all, it’s a very uncertain time with lots of potential negatives on all sides.
All of which misses what I think God is saying to us.
Consider: In England, the number of people attending services online is ten times the number that attended live before the pandemic hit. I’ve heard reports of small churches getting over twenty times the number of attendees via Facebook than they get in live services, and megachurches that have more than tripled their numbers.
Numbers aren’t everything. They aren’t even the most important thing when it comes to the church. We don’t even know why people are tuning in: is it boredom, nostalgia, spiritual hunger, …?
But whatever the reason, God is using the virus to allow the church to speak into the lives of untold numbers of people whom we would never otherwise reach. Many of us have been praying for revival in our country; could this be the answer to our prayers? Has God given us a rapidly closing window of opportunity through the pandemic to reach people for the Kingdom?
We are embodied creatures; meeting live is vital to our spiritual and emotional well-being. We need to participate in the sacraments, to hug each other, to look into each other’s eyes, to smile and laugh and hold hands, and to relate to each other in all those physical ways that we are used to. And we will, soon.
But God is giving us a remarkable season of grace to have an impact that we have not been able to have when we were doing church as usual.
And this, in turn, raises the question, how are we going to disciple the people who attend online from all around the country and integrate them into local assemblies of believers when they were unwilling or uninterested in that before?
What new wineskins do we need to accommodate the influx of people should God provide the increase? There are resources that can help us with this, but are we even looking for them?
We’ve so focused on the inconveniences we face that we’ve missed the opportunity in front of us.
And that suggests that God is shouting that we aren’t ready for the revival we’ve been praying for. We need to awaken to the opportunity before us and trust Jesus’ promise that not even the gates of Hell, much less a coronavirus, will prevail against the Church.
Glenn Sunshine is a Senior Fellow with the Colson Center for Christian Worldview
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an exercise in exposing the politics of human frailty. In all of our technological prowess and unspoken assumptions of social invincibility, we are being reminded that we are creatures; not the Creator. All of the expertise, all the government planning (endless “modeling” that has proven foolish), and all the economic growth we rely upon cannot overcome the unpredictable effects of disease and scarcity of a Romans 8 world.
Our political leaders have failed us in their inability to either grasp or communicate a capacious understanding of public health, thus leading to draconian overreaction.
Very few public intellectuals have done anything to help society come to grips with the moral realism of human finitude, instead offering saccharine bromides (“Don’t kill Grandma”) to questions few are asking with any measure of seriousness or depth.
Our media ecosystem is an utter embarrassment, it being mediated almost exclusively through the lens of owning either the Trump-opponent or Trump-supporter. Who knew that pestilence was a partisan affair? I, for one, did not.
Intellectuals and our media depict the public mindset as a binary between cruel capitalists and nanny-state sycophants; meanwhile we are not being told of what is required to live in a society where death will continue alongside the possibility of human flourishing as well. It is all profoundly stupid. Our fragility is a measure of our decadence and God is speaking to us through a despair that no is addressing.
We should be using this moment to reckon with the human condition, instead, wealthy celebrities lecture us from their mansions that we ourselves are in want of.
Andrew T. Walker is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“We are not as strong as we think we are.” The title of that old Rich Mullins song referred to the breakdown of a relationship, but it serves as a good description of the frailty of all humanity.
Through a global pandemic, the Lord has reminded us of how quickly the world can change, how easily we succumb to the hubris of thinking we’re in control of what we will do tomorrow (James 4:15), and how even the best of our expertise, forecasts, and planning can be turned upside down in a matter of hours.
Through this crisis, perhaps the Lord is shouting that He is the One who directs the affairs of the nations. He alone is King. The number of “un” words we’ve used to describe this season (“unprecedented,” “unsettled,” “uncertain”) meet their match in the “un” words that describe our God: unparalleled, unrivaled, unsearchable.
In generations past, Christians easily assigned divine motivation to earthly calamities, believing plagues and natural disasters were specific forms of God’s judgment. Some, in their hastiness, made the mistake of Job’s friends and assigned blame too easily.
I wonder, though, if today we are more likely to make the opposite mistake—to adopt a quasi-Deistic view of God as a comforting presence in the midst of our pain, who is, unfortunately, not really in control, or who can do little to interfere.
The Bible presents the judgments of God as opportunities for repentance. Disasters can alert us to the sinfulness of humanity, can lift our eyes to the glorious love of God, and can reawaken our senses to the wonder of God’s grace in creation and redemption.
Suffering can be like surgery, a tool in the hands of a God who, because He is love, stands ruthlessly opposed to the cancerous sins that would infect and destroy us.
We do not know the mind of the Lord, but we can trace the history of His handiwork. He is the One who makes use of earthly suffering in His promise to make all things new again, and to make His people more into the image of His Son.
Trevin Wax, senior vice president of Theology and Communications at Lifeway Christian Resources, author of This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel
Due to COVID-19, many states have closed school buildings, maybe even extending into the fall. Churches have been ordered to halt face-to-face meetings, resorting to online services.
But for kids, Zoom equals boredom. More and more students are disengaging from digital youth group and Christian education is taking a huge hit. To make matters worse, youth pastors look to parents for support; but overwhelmed moms and dads don’t even know where to start.
Yet, this begs the question. Who is primarily responsible to train children to fear the Lord? Is it the youth pastor? Is it the Church? Could God be using COVID-19 to reveal a glaring blind spot, while providing an incredible opportunity to right that wrong?
Jesus pointed to Deuteronomy 6:5 as the greatest commandment, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Any good, first-century Jew would’ve known this wasn’t simply a directive for personal sanctification. It also pointed toward a high expectation and responsibility for parents.
Deuteronomy 6:7 reads, “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” Sit, walk, lie, rise means that every part of the day is an opportunity to teach your children about our amazing God.
Read the Bible with your kids. But also provide the broad storyline of the Old Testament and New Testament. Talk about the book’s background, like its author, setting, and structure. Teach basic doctrines of theology, such as sin, redemption, justification, adoption, and sanctification. Find a rudimentary catechism to study together as the whole family.
Model to your kids how a Christian worldview affects decision-making, personal interactions, and even hobbies. Talk to your youth about the beautiful gift of holy sexuality (chastity in singleness or faithfulness in marriage). Teach them how to share the gospel. Tell your sons and daughters your own conversion story.
When all this is over, would God see His talent of time hidden in the ground with nothing in return? Or would God find that by His grace, this time was stewarded well with seeds of the gospel planted into young hearts? We may never have time like this again.
Christopher Yuan, DMin, professor-at-large at Moody Bible Institute, speaker, and author of Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story and co-author of Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God and a Broken Mother’s Search for Hope Mother’s Search for Hope.