What the Coronavirus Is Making of Us

Thomas Lange

I’ve observed a few things about us Christians. Some of them make me reflect. Others are cause for joy. One thing is now clear: The past year has done something to us and our churches, and may still be doing it. Coronavirus has left deep marks. I’d like to briefly outline these observations here.

Observation 1: The uncertainty is visible. Many men and women in the churches don’t know what to make of the constant news of impending danger, infection rates, restrictions, etc. What is true, and what is false? The large amount of information quickly becomes overwhelming. They prefer to remain at home, uncertain, and just wait. One week, and then another, passes this way.

You see fear. Although fear is a poor advisor, many are accepting it as a (supposedly) safe anchor right now. This has brought spiritual freedom and joy to a standstill in some churches. Fear paralyzes and eventually leads to numbness. The freedom we have in Christ gives way to a kind of bondage to the fear of what might happen.

You see withdrawal. A consequence of the previous point. Quite a few brothers and sisters have withdrawn into their shells. They stay at home all the time and are satisfied within their own four walls. Contact with other members of their church family has been severed. We’ve become accustomed to this state of affairs so quickly! Withdrawal is fairly quick, but revival and advance against it are much slower. There’s a genuine danger that the shell will become accepted for so long that this becomes a new habit.

You see discouragement. Discouragement starts with negative thoughts. Brooding over circumstances, health department guidelines, etc., quickly gets us into trouble. Numerous activities or partly finished projects had to be put on hold. Will we ever be able to continue them? A great deal of missionary work vanished into thin air within a few weeks. The hard-won people are staying away and not returning, even when restrictions are relaxed. Many activities must be started from scratch.

You see disunity. Church leaders and elders are facing an enormous challenge to balance the government’s requirements and compliance with the Holy Scripture’s requirements. With ten people at the table, there are often twelve opinions. There are offensive and defensive views. Suddenly, the main thing (our mission as a local church) is marginalized, and the virus becomes the central topic of long deliberations. There is often no consensus on how to put something into practice in church life that satisfies everybody.

You see the danger of divisions. There’s no need to hide the fact that this is an extremely challenging and burdensome time for the churches. The risk of rifts has increased enormously. Not least, the mental tension and different perspectives on the whole matter are driving us into a corner. Additionally, we often rely far too much on our emotions when we negotiate these issues; thus, it’s all too easy for the confused to become combative.

Preliminary conclusion: Coronavirus has the potential to overwhelm our thinking. It unsettles us, frightens and discourages us, and seems to be forcing us to our knees. There’s no doubt that this virus and the changes it has caused have left deep fissures in our churches.

Let’s pause for a moment. Let’s clear our minds and recall what the Holy Scriptures tell us. Doesn’t God remain God despite this global crisis? “Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isa 46:9-10). Most of the observations above take place in our minds. Thoughts are always the preliminary stage of our action or inaction (Prov 23:7).

Who is bigger: the living God or a virus? Romans 8:38-39 gives us the answer. Who is more powerful: the living God or a virus? Matthew 28:18 gives us the answer. Who is more to be feared: the living God or a virus? Luke 12:5 gives us the answer. Let’s remember the greatness and omnipotence of our God, who became man in Jesus. Let’s remember the sole sovereignty that He has.

For months, our thinking has been directed toward one thing: a tiny, invisible virus. It’s drawn our thoughts away from Christ, the infinitely great, invisible God. So, let’s remember 2 Corinthians 10:3-5:

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

At the end of the second letter to the Corinthians, Paul mentions an enormously important thing: If we divert our momentarily disoriented thinking from the current circumstances around the coronavirus, and reorient it to Jesus Christ and the words of the Bible, we capture these gloomy thoughts, not allowing them to rule us. We replace thoughts of fear, doubt, brooding, worry, and withdrawal, with thoughts that Jesus shows us though the Holy Spirit in the form of Bible verses.

Aligning our minds with Christ will change our view of the circumstances, and help us keep them from dominating us.

Observation 2: The following things can be seen in Christians who try to comply with Paul’s encouragement (which I also quietly observed, and which made me very grateful):

You can see self-assured men and women of God. They can be neither intimidated nor unsettled. They serve as guides and lend support to others in this confusing time. Not because they’re especially smart or well-trained, but because they’re resting firmly in the knowledge that God is in control. They trust in Jesus Christ, despite the enormously challenging events.

You can see sobriety. The current situation isn’t being downplayed, but neither is it overstated. These men and women put events in their context and understand that we’re only in yet another phase of God’s story. Instead of grasping at straws, they stay level-headed about what the Scriptures say.

You can see brothers and sisters leading the way. Men and women who can actually see the opportunities in such a crisis. They take advantage of them and proceed courageously, thereby positively influencing and involving others. They understand that every crisis has different possibilities. They don’t complain about the bad times, but look ahead bravely and get going.

You can see understanding. Not everyone is the same. We’re all different, and yet we belong together. I’ve seen this understanding way of dealing with one another in lots of places. Mutual consideration; paying attention to someone else’s feelings and how they’re dealing emotionally with this crisis, is extremely important. Many brothers and sisters are aware that this is an emotionally volatile time, and are treating each other accordingly. It’s wonderful.

You see initiatives. New opportunities for spreading the Word of God are being recognized and implemented. Work domains that had been paused are beginning to revive. The “there’s no point” mentality is being shed. Instead, people are considering how to obey the Bible’s guidelines despite restrictions, and without getting into legal difficulties. Many are now displaying their God-given creativity. New fields of work are arising.

You see care. More and more members of the church family are picking up the phone to find out what their elderly brothers and sisters are doing. They speak courage or just listen. They get in the car and visit lonely and elderly Christians. Home groups are coming to life again, where warm fellowship abounds.

You see courage instead of fear. Brave people are those who have given their fear to Jesus! They’re aware of the dangers of the virus, and still don’t allow themselves to be imprisoned by it. Instead, they take risks for Jesus.

You can see unity among brothers and sisters, who are aware of the negative potential in each and every one of us. They know that the coronavirus isn’t worth parting over, and instead choose to be together. Because there will be a time after the coronavirus.

Conclusion: Christ has called us to freedom. We are slaves to no one but Jesus Christ. We can decide whether coronavirus will define us, or whether we will make the best of the situation, using the opportunities in the midst of the pandemic. Those who are—and remain—steadfast in a crisis, will ultimately emerge from it enormously strengthened. Through it all, we must be aware that coronavirus isn’t worth wearing ourselves out over, being broken down, or being divided over.

Two perspectives. Which to choose? Everyone has to decide for themselves, including you.

Finally, let’s allow ourselves to be encouraged by our Lord Himself:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Prov 3:5-6).

Midnight Call - 04/2021

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