Many Americans are chafing under the restrictions imposed by government. Last week protests were organized in many state capitols by those who want to get back to life and work. Yesterday there were news reports about crowds ignoring the social distancing guidelines on beaches and in parks to bask in the sun. We do love our freedoms, don’t we? Our national ideals are reflected in the stories of hardy Pilgrims who left friends and family to create a new life in the wilderness. The cowboy on the lone prairie is an icon of our self-determination. I, too, am drawn to the ideal of being ‘my own man,’ not naturally a joiner or a guy who naturally seeks out the protection of the herd.
However, there is more to the story of life than just making a place for ourselves. Indeed, the idea that any person is a ‘self-made’ individual is a lie. We are, whether we get it or not, interconnected in this great human family. We must learn to live above the labels – Left, Right, Progressive, Conservative, Rural, Urban, Religious, Non-believer. That is not say that we are all the same, or even that we have identical interests. To insist that is true ignores reality. However, we do share this planet, the well-being of one connected to the health of the whole.
For Christians who love the Word the fact of our inter-connectedness is inescapable. We are called by the Spirit into Christ’s Body. Living as a Christian without being part of the Church is unthinkable. “The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other.” (1 Corinthians 12:21-25, NLT) Our mutual relationships in the church, our integral connections with each other, should give rise to a fundamental shift in the way we live.
When we learn to think of ourselves as part of the larger whole, we will no longer seek only our own goals, no longer be driven by our self-interest. As this time of crisis drags on, Christians should be at the forefront of the discussion that seeks the balance of protection for the most vulnerable and the health of our economy. Beyond that, Christians need to cast a wary eye on nationalistic interests that ignore the needs of the wider world. COVID19 has not just struck these United States. The suffering of poorer nations around the world is going largely unreported at this time. The answers are not simple, nor are they obvious. But, we won’t find the highest and best by waving placards in the streets that demand our ‘rights.’ Nor will we be able to discover mutual benefit if we dismiss those who think differently by calling them names.
We discover great strength, amazing possibilities when we learn to cooperate, when we listen more than we talk, when we consider the health of the whole over special interest. The enemy of God and good is able to sow the seeds of our destruction when we think only about ourselves. It is quite natural to seek to protect ourselves, especially when we are threatened. Let’s not forget that our true protection comes from the Lord who watches over us.
As these United States prepare to ‘reopen’ my prayer is that Christians will show the love of Jesus, leading in their communities by encouraging hard conversations, by not allowing even a hint of self-interest to color their decisions. A good friend who is a leader in our Assemblies of God said it well when he challenged pastors to remember that they are called to “balance the civil law, the constitutional liberties, and the Kingdom imperatives in proclaiming Christ in this crisis.” That idea of balanced goals is not just for Pastors.
On this Monday morning, may the truth of the Word bring us wisdom, cause us to think with clarity. Here is a call to connection. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.” (Romans 12:10-16, NIV) We will honor our Lord, discover that which is God’s best, if we live those words.
Pray with me today, will you?
Abba, secure me in Your love today.
I feel the winds of uncertainty blowing over me and
my natural tendency is to seek my own safety,
to create a fortress for myself.
Teach me to reach out, to listen well,
to be a builder of relationships, a speaker of truth.
Let love be my guide, not in a simplistic or romantic way,
but in a way that boldly, fearlessly, engages the world in which I live.
In all things, may You guide my thoughts, my words, my actions.
Be my Light, my Strength, my Hope, my Security.
In the Name of Jesus, I pray. Amen