We are nation of factions. A people divided. Several weeks ago, it seemed hopeful that many of our differences were being laid down. We were being forced to look at the things in our lives that truly mattered and anything that didn’t was cast aside. We were all trying to understand what was causing our new normal, trying to help each other survive it and prosper in the midst of adversity. We were generally in agreement that a microscopic agent was going to alter our lives for a very long time, if not forever.
But days turned into weeks and weeks have turned into months. And now, we seem to be more divided than we were before. Right-winged conspiracy theories have taken hold where information is incomplete. Liberal agendas have found a foothold that will be quite difficult to unhinge once the current crisis is over. It is human nature to want answers and action. And we want them now and we want them our way. And we don’t always care about the thousands who disagree with us as long as we can prove we are right. At least to ourselves. At times only to ourselves, our audience of one.
This desire for resolution is especially magnified when when we are distressed or hurting in some way. People do not like pain. We avoid it at all costs, sometimes even to our detriment or to that of those we say we love. And so, we’ll do anything we can to make it go away quickly. In our current situation, if our pain is economic, we want our jobs back. We want customers for our small business. We want money to feed our families. If our pain is psychological, we want our old lives back. Our friends. Our families. Our vacations and activities. If our pain is physical, we want a cure. A vaccine. Herd immunity. Some drug somewhere that will save us. And these desires are not wrong. These wants are not wrong. But they’re not promised either.
But what we’re seeing right now, is not just the division of a nation; we are, once again, seeing the division of the church. We are seeing the tension between what it means to be a citizen of a country and what it means to be a citizen of heaven. Once again, as is true with every cultural shift or crisis, we are trying to figure out what it means to live for Christ and witnessing the rise of what it means to live for self.
It should be no surprise to us that we’re divided, really. Not just as a nation, but within the body of Christ. When our churches have devolved into centers of self-worship, rather than places that focus on worshiping the one, true, holy, sovereign God, we have nothing to hold us together. When “my Jesus” is preached from the pulpit and the true Jesus is sacrificed on the altar of individualism and post-modern convictions, we have nothing to hold us accountable to one another. When our Bibles are taken as stories rather than the authoritative Word of God, speaking into all areas of life, and requiring our obedience, we have nothing on which to base our understanding of the truth, much less how to live it out day to day.
For instance, as a citizen of the United States of America, I am still promised life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. I have rights to free speech and freedom of religion. I have the right to educate my children at home in a Christ-centered environment. In most states, I even have the right to not vaccinate my kids if I were to choose that route. It is right and good for me to vote to keep those rights. To keep my liberty. If it’s infringed upon, I can protest. I can do everything in my power to legally resist. Those rights are mine because God ordained them to be mine, as a citizen of a democratic republic.
But, as a Christian, I am promised none of those things. Not one. The only thing I am promised as a Christian is Christ. That’s it. Nothing more. Of course, anything more than Christ is not even possible, but he is a King that provides for his people in ways wholly different than an earthly king, or president, or governor. If I serve this King, I may die. I may go hungry. I may be imprisoned. I may lose everything. Except for him. I will never lose him.
And so, just like many other Christians in this world, if God ordains that my rights as a US citizen be taken from me, I am no less under his will than I was before. If God decides I cannot meet for worship like the believers under communism, I am no less his. If God decides to remove the democracy under which I live, I am no less his. If God removes my freedom through the actions of governmental overreach of any kind, I am no less his. If he does not provide a way of escaping even the most totalitarian, evil regime, I am no less his. And as his, I am no less required to live for his glory, understanding that all things are from his hand for my good.
This is not the first time that God’s people have struggled. This is not the first global pandemic. It’s not the first economic recession or depression. It’s not the first time politicians have politicized something for their gain. It is, however, the first time we have had to decide how we are going to respond. It is the first time we have had to think through our words on social media to our fellow Christians. It is the first time many of us have had to think through our thoughts and actions toward our fellow image bearers, those in authority over us and throughout our community as a whole. It is the first time we are being required to decide whether or not we will lay aside our preferences, much less our legitimate needs, for the sake of others. Even if we aren’t fully convinced in our own minds that others need such sacrifices.
These are not easy things for any of us to think through and in no way am I diminishing the very real and very difficult situations some of us are in right now. But those situations, whatever they are, are under the sovereign control of our loving Heavenly Father, appointed for us as part of his perfect plan for our lives. This very well may be the most difficult time in our lives. It may be the most painful thing some of us, many of us, ever face on this earth. And if so, may God be glorified in our response to him and to each other.