And while that may be an unsettling time for most people, followers of Jesus have an opportunity to do things differently from the rest of society. We have a chance to witness to our faith in Christ by both words and deeds that can draw people to God through Christ. We can help change the world.
Lasting, deep-seated change, though, rarely comes from something that is externally motivated (such as this virus). Externally motivated change rarely lasts because there is a loss of freedom, choice, and control. The doctor tells you that you have to lose 20 pounds or you will die, and you change your diet, restock your pantry, and stick to it- for a while. It’s all externally motivated. But if you see your grandchildren, and want to live to see them grow up, you set the internal characteristics to change. You choose how you want to live. It’s internally motivated.
We can help people see there’s a better way to live in the midst of uncertain times. A way that does not deny reality, but at the same time does not let the world control you.
Here are a few suggestions on how to live during these changing times.
First, replace anxiety and worry with a calm assurance that God will see us through. “ Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” Paul, an early follower of Jesus wrote to his friends at Philippi (Philippians 4:6-7) Their world was being turned upside down, and Paul said to bring it all to God, and God’s peace would fill their hearts and minds. A saying I read long ago keeps coming to mind- “Be a non-anxious voice in the midst of anxious times.”
Jim Collins wrote about the “Stockdale Paradox.” Admiral Jim Stockdale was a POW in Viet Nam for 7 years. He said the optimists, the ones who said “we’ll be out by Christmas” or “we can handle this” were the ones to die first. As he put it, they died of a broken heart. Stockdale said, “You must never ever ever confuse, on the one hand, the need for absolute, unwavering faith that you can prevail despite those constraints with, on the other hand, the need for the discipline to begin by confronting the brutal facts, whatever they are.”
Second, do not judge people. There is plenty of that going on in the world already. You may think you know the circumstances of a person’s choice and that you may know their inner thoughts, but you do not. None of us do. Remember how you hate to be judged. Treat others the same way.
Third, check out all information as thoroughly as possible. Even information that may appear to come from a reputable source. I have seen news flashes that look like they came from a trustworthy news agency, the format and logo is there, but it turns out to be false. Some hacker made it up. Check out everything as much as possible before passing on any information.
Fourth, support your local community. In this time of social distancing we often remove ourselves from our community. Support local restaurants and businesses. If you can’t eat there, buy a gift certificate for later. Encourage those whom you see still working. Contribute to the local food bank or community ministries. People are going to need help over the days to come. Support not only your church’s work to help others, but other churches and groups, too. Let people be amazed by what we do as followers of Jesus.
Fifth, check on your neighbors. Not just the older ones, but all of them. No need to bother them extensively, but let them know you care.
Sixth, learn to live a a community in Christ. America is a land of individualism, and it has brought us far. But followers of Jesus are made into one body, and we are all part of each other. When we learn to live together, to share our lives, our hopes, dreams, pains, and resources, we give light and hope to those around us.
Christianity has lived through many major changes in the world in the last 2,000 years. We have lived out our faith in multitudes of cultures. And we have helped to shape the world for better in so many ways. We are in the midst of another change. It is another chance for us to be the Body of Christ.
Grace and peace,
Credit Where Credit's Due Department: Thanks to Carey Nieuwhof, Jeff Henderson, Neil Yongue, and Joel Jones for inspiration and ideas.