Everything could change.. what COVID-19 has done for us
I walked into Starbucks on Monday to grab my usual tall Pike Place in a "here" mug. I was a bit bleary after having gotten up for a 6:00 a.m. meeting that didn't happen. I stopped on the sidewalk, looking into the brightly-lit coffee shop. It was empty. Of furniture. I could see the workers behind the counter, busy filling to-go orders for the drive thru, but a sign on the door informed me that due to COVID-19, they were only open for take out orders.
Monday evening I sat in a movie theater by myself watching Upward. I suspected it would be my last movie for a while (I love movies), and I wanted to use my Regal Unlimited Pass once more time. Sure enough, on Tuesday morning, Regal announced they were shutting their doors during the virus crisis.
Oh, how things change in only a week.
Within just a few days, our country went from business-as-usual with a distant awareness of the coronavirus impacting China and some cruise ships to colleges, then primary schools, then restaurants being closed. It seemed we hit a tipping point, and while everyone was fighting for toilet paper (do people poop more because of social distancing?), everything changed.
Our church held its first online worship service this past Sunday, and we are planning on doing it again this Sunday. And probably the next. Our church staff (with everyone else) has been learning how to lead online meetings with Zoom.
With President Trump insisting on no gathering larger than 10 and the Governor of Virginia saying he will use police to enforce that, things are not only fearful these days, but people are manic. In an op-ed, Judge Andrew Napolitano said, “Throughout history, free people have been willing to accept the devil’s bargain of trading liberty for safety when they are fearful.”
In my message Sunday, I shared how Peter was motivated by fear when he quit hanging out with the Gentiles in Antioch (Galatians 2:11-14). Paul had to confront him on how his behavior compromised his beliefs. We know that fear is more contagious than COVID-19. It has led people to do selfish things throughout humanity and also caused them to miss the best as a result of decisions made in the context of fear.
What fear does:
It shrinks faith.
It doesn't make sense to most when a person demonstrates faith in the unseen. When someone voices cheery optimism in the face of dark trial, it confuses and bewilders. When I woke this morning, for whatever reason, the words of Psalms 118:24 were ringing in my head:
"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."
My "brain" objected and said, "THIS day? THIS day?!!!! No Starbucks, no movies, no ability to gather with friends in groups. Fear everywhere. A ravaging disease. Death threatening. Travel halted. Economic ruin. Political finger-pointing. THIS day????" And yet, my faith whispered to me, "Yes, Jeff. THIS day. This is the day the Lord has made... will YOU rejoice and be glad in it?"
That's confounding. What are we placing our faith in these days? What perspective do we have? The Lord is not ignorant to what is going on. It hasn't caught Him off guard. So what does our fear say about where our faith is placed?
People have a tremendous amount of faith in COVID-19. They can't physically see it or feel it, but its impact is without question. They hear stories of lives impacted and its spread. They are drastically changing their lives, often in uncomfortable ways, to align with what COVID-19 is asking of us.
Now...wouldn't it be amazing if we could say.
People have a tremendous amount of faith in Jesus. They can't physically see Him or hear Him but His impact is without question. People are hearing stories of lives impacted by Jesus, and how the gospel is spreading. They are drastically changing their lives, often in uncomfortable ways, to align with what Jesus is asking of us.
Viral crisis or faith opportunity
Our world remains in COVID-19 crisis today. Some areas are hard hit (China and Italy), while others are responding drastically to inhibit the virus' spread. Fear runs rampant.
For those who place their faith in Jesus, we are called to see things from a different perspective. We are called to prayer, to resolute compassion. In an article about how Christians have responded to plagues during the Roman Empire, Eric Metaxas said,
"Nearly eighteen centuries after the Plague of Cyprian, Christianity still prompts people to run towards the plague when virtually everyone else is running away."
This sobering reminder of who we are as followers of Jesus, who Himself willingly faced suffering, is challenging to modern disciples. We should not be stupid about rushing to risk, but we should be sacrificial. This calls for great discernment and wisdom in these days.
These days of worth rejoicing in. We have unprecedented opportunity to rethink, to reassess.. everything. Families are sequestered together. Parents are embracing homeschooling. Workaholics are in forced detox. Things are slower, lines non-existent (except at the toilet paper aisle) and life is.. profoundly different.
Let's not miss these surreal changes as unique gifts and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. It's like a Global Reset Button.