Normal, as we knew it, may not return…and that’s going to be OK too. I don’t know about you, but different could be better.
“Cleanliness is next to godliness” has been touted for years. While there is no direct connection, we could achieve both during this time. Spring cleaning took on new emphasis this year as regular washing of high-touch items ensued. Many doorknobs, phones, and myriad other objects haven’t been cleaned so often before. The smell of bleach or similar cleaners became familiar scents. How many ways did you re-learn how to wash your hands or cover your cough / sneeze? Infection prevention experts continue to tout that handwashing is one of the most important things to reduce the spread of illness. Anyone and everyone got a needed reminder. And, social distancing gave us the opportunity to put someone else’s need above our own. While inconvenient for the healthy, it may have saved someone’s life. “Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus…” (Phil. 2:3-5a CEB).
Economic upheaval can be beneficial. When income is limited or uncertain, purchases become prioritized as needs or wants. Toilet paper jokes aside, shopping habits changed. Since we went out less, we used lists more and minimized waste. Eating at home became the norm and we found ways to support local restaurants through take out on occasion. In so doing, we kept some sideline businesses going until they could reopen.
I was also encouraged as meeting the needs of our neighbors and community increased. This too, models Christlikeness and mimics the early church. “For when you and other contributors perform this act of public service, you are not merely meeting the physical needs of the poor among God’s people in Jerusalem. In addition, your giving will overflow in a flood of thanksgiving to God. Indeed, this service of giving will provide such unmistakable evidence of your love and the genuineness of your faith that people will glorify God, praising and worshiping him for two things—first, that you are obedient to the implications of the gospel of Christ as the result of confessing your faith in its truth, and second, that you are generous in sharing your material resources with them, and, as opportunity arises, with everyone in need.”2 Co 9:12-13 *
Political unrest and restrictions of liberty were familiar to the early church under Roman rule. Even then, we are instructed to submit to the authorities. Peter, in writing to a church actively persecuted by Nero, instructed these believers to submit to those in power. “For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.” (1 Peter 2:13-17, NLT)
My church, like others, no longer meets together in a building. But ministry still happens. Online services and gatherings using apps like Zoom are the new normal. Some may “attend” church for the first time in response to their fear about the future. The unchanging message of the gospel remains while the method of telling it adjusts.
This year, we face COVID-19. No one knows the future except God. Whether I, or you, are concerned about: 1) people taking this virus seriously, 2) impending economic devastation, and/or 3) expansion of authoritarian government policies…or all three like me…God will meet you there and calm your troubled soul.
““I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27, NLT)
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”” (John 16:33, ESV)
“Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus. From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:4–9, CEB)
*Murray J. Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, MI; Milton Keynes, UK: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.; Paternoster Press, 2005),