By Robert Hampshire, Crosswalk.com
I have watched or read my fair share of news broadcasts, political rants, and blog posts about COVID-19. I don’t know about you, but I would be completely fine if I never hear another word about it. Sadly, that’s not going to happen.
Whatever side of whatever controversy you fall on, we need to recognize that (for Christians) there are worse fates than death and worse consequences than getting sick. I have noticed that over these past six-plus months of “shutdown,” “quarantine,” “lockdown,” (or whatever we’re calling it now), the social isolation, non-human contact, strict yet inconsistent rules, fear-mongering, and less church involvement have resulted in some dangerous consequences that are negatively affecting us as individuals, communities, and churches.
So, let's take stock of some of the critical things that COVID-19 threatens to steal from us. And, hopefully, we can reclaim them. Together, we can shift our perspective to realizing that the fallout is not as bad or as permanent as it seems—for there have been positives that we have seen as well. Here are five negative repercussions of COVID-19 that are worth examining:
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1. Don't Allow Confusion to Crowd Out Clarity
There is very little in our world that has not been shaken in some way by this. Science, schools, politics, family, and the church are suffering from confusion because of reports of “truth” that disagree with each other. Even worse, how someone feels seems to be more important than anything else.
If you travel out of state regularly, you know what I’m talking about. Every governor is giving different guidelines, making it impossible to keep up with the ever-changing list of “mandates,” “requirements,” and “recommendations” because they are inconsistent at best. For example, check out Grace Community Church’s recent experience in California.
As a result of this confusion, many leaders (especially church and ministry leaders) have lost any clarity in their vision and certainty of their purpose. Ministries, churches, and whole denominations have lost momentum and put their mission on hold because they are confused about who to listen to, which way to go, and what to do next.
2. Focus on Faith So it Isn't Replaced by Fear
One of the best life lessons that I learned from playing football in high school is that to be effective on the field, I have to forget about all the bad things that could happen and just play the game. In fact, if I played scared, I was more likely to get hurt. I’m not talking about being oblivious, I’m just talking about being courageous to do what I am supposed to be doing.
Now let’s get real. While it is statistically unlikely, you or a family member really could die from the coronavirus, couldn’t they? Yes. Just like you could die from a car accident, the flu, cancer, Ebola, a sports injury, and (in rare cases) slipping in the shower.
As a matter of fact, it is 100% guaranteed that you will die of something someday (probably sooner than you want). It has been that way since Adam and Eve ate that stinking piece of fruit in the Garden of Eden. That is what we mean by the “wages of sin is death.”
Living in reality is one thing—but being too afraid to live your life is another. A few months ago, that was called hypochondria; today it is called normal. Whether masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer dispensers are the right measures to take or not, nothing must keep us from worshiping God corporately, discipling others, serving the needy, and living our life on mission.
If we all stay home—who is going to care for the sick, feed the poor, serve the widows, bless the lonely, and love on others in all the ways that require human interaction and touch?
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3. Don't Let Division Replace Deference
This one is probably the most obvious. While I optimistically think that most people don’t actually disagree, we are nevertheless so accustomed to arguing that we figure out a way to disagree and be divided anyway.
Social media especially has become almost totally a platform for hatred and disrespect. The only explanation for all of this is that the “thief” that Jesus talked about in John 10 (our enemy) is prevailing in his goal to “steal, kill, and destroy.”
Then without spending quality time with people and having honest, heartfelt conversations, we cannot know what is really going on with them. The reality is that many people have fallen back into porn addictions, there is more fighting in the home, lonely men and women are suffering greatly from depression, substance abuse has increased, anxiety has multiplied, and suicide has skyrocketed.
With all that going on, no wonder so many people are living on the brink of literal war instead of deferring and submitting to one another, respecting different opinions, and loving others. And just to be clear, I’m not talking about “them out there” in the world—I’m talking about “us in here” in the church.
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4. Stop Doubt from Replacing Doctrine
One of the main lessons that I have learned in the last six years as a pastor/church planter is that “we all do what we believe.”
Over the last few months, we have all come face-to-face with the things that we say and think, and many of us have found that we really do not believe them because we are not actually acting on them. Having our doctrinal beliefs challenged, though, is a good thing—even if that results in realizing that we do not really believe something.
For example, it is becoming more obvious than ever what individuals really believe about themselves, about God, about the importance of the Church gathering, about reading Scripture and praying daily, about the value of all human life, about death, and about the importance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Pastors and churches are making loud statements on the importance of functions such as baptism, communion, and singing by whether they are doing them or not.
However, the worst consequence of this is that people who are younger in their faith have formed serious doubts about what they used to think was truth. Whether their weak faith is the result of poor personal Bible study or from inadequate discipleship from a shallow church (which is all too common from my experience), anytime a young believer stumbles in their doubt it hurts the Bride of Christ and displeases our loving Father (Luke 17:2; Matthew 18:10-14).
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5. Be Cautious that Justice Isn't Replacing Jesus
The lack of strong leadership, the presence of fear, and the sense of division in the church has sadly caused some immature believers to look to someone or something other than Jesus to be the answer to all this. Some people are jumping on a political or social justice bandwagon to fix our issues.
Others are holding out for a “silver bullet” like a vaccine, a piece of legislation, or a certain presidential candidate to sweep in and settle our country’s issues (which is the same picture that the Book of Revelation paints for the end times).
Still others are pining after a false peace and unity that they hope will come from talking about (or more like screaming about) our issues. The masses are crying out for justice for their cause and thinking that their way will achieve it.
But while we are here on this earth, no matter what issues we overcome, there will be more and worse down the road. It is simply the nature of our broken world.
Ever since the day that sin was introduced into humanity soon after creation, the truth has been suppressed, God has been ignored, and evil has been practiced (Romans 1:18-32). And it will always be that way until we are given a new Heaven and Earth.
But while we are here, we can take heart, because Jesus (who has gone before us) has already “overcome the world” (John 16:33). That is why we need to be constantly reminded of the gospel, because it alone offers true hope to our lost world. I pray that my heart and your heart is set on the remedy who is none other than Jesus Christ. May we say along with the psalter David:
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth… The LORD will keep [my] going out and [my] coming in from this time forth and forevermore (Psalm 121:1-8, ESV).
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