How can we respond to the changing world around us as restrictions are lifted? By Rachel Fisher
As I am writing this, there is some optimism regarding the end of the Covid-19 restrictions. The last 12 months may seem like a blur of zoom, online working, social distancing, mask wearing, isolation. Most of us have gone with it obediently and despite frustrations have probably got used to some of it to an extent. So now we are preparing to transition back to some kind of ‘normal,’ how should we prepare as Christians, and what should we do?
Transitions in life can be difficult, even the ones we want to happen! I remember the joy of finding out I was pregnant for the first time; yet, within hours of the happy news, feeling nauseated, dizzy spells and constantly fatigued, which turned into severe pregnancy sickness up to 26 weeks, gestational diabetes, swollen feet, massive weight gain amongst a whole host of other sensitivities.
Did I still long for a child? Of course I did! However, I had not anticipated how difficult the transition from no child to holding a baby would be. I’d chosen the transition and longed for it, but it was still difficult, and, at times, I was taken over by it. The wonder of new life made it all worth it and didn’t even put me off signing up for doing it all over again! Although transitions can be difficult, they can be worthwhile too.
So how do we as Christians transition well?
The truth is as a church we have no recent example of coming out of a pandemic, nor how to go about it, there is no set model we can fall back on. However, as Christians, we are constantly called to grow, and transitions can be new opportunities to do this.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24).
There are three things I see in this verse that could help us in our situation: love, good works and meeting together.
When we have the chance to meet together, we need to do it. This is a command not a question of would we like to or not, it is essential to our spiritual wellbeing. It is a part of how we worship and how we love each other too.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up…” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
“As iron sharpens iron, the one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:15)
Even if we may have formed habits of not meeting online or not being able to for whatever reason, change the habit now – we could use this as an opportunity to start over, turn over a new leaf, enter a new season.
Meeting together can be meeting with God as well.
“For where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am among them.” (Matthew 18:20)
It may be hard to get up and out in the morning in time for an in-person church service. There may be anxiety and fear relating to Covid-19, or even just speaking to people and being in the same room as a group of people. Whilst recognising these may be real struggles…what are we called to do? What is our duty in this situation?
“For you have died and your life is now Christ in God” Colossians 3:3
Actually, the cosy duvet and TV in pyjamas may seem attractive, but this isn’t about us, and when these are the temptations we need to die to those things. We are called to meet together in fellowship and worship, this may require sacrifice on our part. Podcaster Rachel Jankovic says:
‘Transitions are new opportunities to die to ourselves…when we live in a world that thinks we can avoid difficulties and responsibilities.’
So, what are our responsibilities?
Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”
Pastor Leslie discussed this verse in Discipleship Live on Friday 12 March and made the point that we can get focused on ourselves when we think about denying and taking up our cross, when it is actually all about HIM. We look to Him, then deny ourselves. We look to Him, and then take up our cross. We look to Him and follow Him. So, it’s not about doing something, it’s actually about responding to something He’s calling me to do.
Love one another
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth;” and later in verse 23, “And this is His commandment that we believe in the name of His son Jesus Christ and love one another just as He commanded us” (1 John 3:18, 23).
Let us show our love for one another in our commitment to meet together and our sacrifice in doing that. Maybe it will require giving up something else in order to do it, but this is obedience to His command.
I like what Pastor John MacArthur says about real love:
“Real love-the kind we ought to be cultivating in the church-has nothing to do with ignorant sentimentality, false peace, superficial emotions, or fickle affections. Love, in its highest and purest form, doesn’t settle for momentary happiness or a shallow sense of unity. Real love isn’t interested in temporary satisfaction; it has eternal goals in mind. It’s concerned with other persons wellbeing, godliness, and spiritual growth. In fact, love is willing to confront when necessary-it will risk alienating the other person’s affection for the sake of his ultimate spiritual good. And real love doesn’t fret over the temporal cost-it’s ready to expend itself for the good of the believer and the glory of God.”
I leave us all with this challenge: Can we make Jesus our focus, die to ourselves, meet together and exemplify real love the way that we are called to do? Let us all respond to Him in this new season and pray that above all He will be glorified.