we are not being persecuted

I miss my church. I miss bumping into multiple warm faces on a Sunday morning and having conversations that vary from the awkward small talk to the deep and vulnerable soul-conversations. I miss holding the children that parents entrust to our care. I miss the exhausted third cup of coffee I sip with my colleagues in the hospitality suite in between running around our church building making sure that all of our services are safe, ready, and prepared. I miss meeting at church, I do.

The past few months have been the most bizarre months.  Personally and globally.  In March when most of us were put into a stay at home order, we heard the mantra “we’re all in this together” echoed almost everywhere. It was an encouragement and a consolation that yes this is tough, but each of our efforts to push through this difficult time were not stagnant or solo; we were tasked to remember that as tough as this may be, we are all called to do this for the greater good.  Fast forward a few months and I no longer hear those words joyfully being repeated or on outdoor signs and banners.

Are we still in this together? 

I’ve been hearing a lot of voices in the church context lately rise up to take a stand against governmental orders. Churches that are choosing the authority of God over the authority of their local government. Churches that feel that not being permitted to gather indoors are having their rights taken away. Churches that choose to still sing and praise loudly despite regulations.  There is a fear that by not gathering and not singing and not continuing to meet as we previously had as a church is choosing man’s leadership over God’s.

Are we still in this together?

There are probably a million and one ways to choose some biblical passages to argue both sides. But more than the behavior of what our churches choose to do, I can’t help but wonder what is the bigger underlying concern in our hearts. I’ve heard some say that they fear this is the beginning of more restrictions on the church. Others who voice that the government is overstepping its bounds. Some who feel that we are choosing fear of a virus over faith in God.

Perhaps.  Perhaps… 

But my heart breaks when our focus is so inward, when we have tunnel vision and only see how those already in the church are affected. If the church was the only building and institution right now being asked to not gather indoors, I could certainly see the concern and I’d probably shake my fist in the air in angst.  Yet small businesses like mom and pop shops are struggling to survive right now and yet are also asked the same. Restaurant workers (I being one for quite a period of time) no longer have hours and so many no longer have a job. Friends and families are limited in how they even grieve and mourn the loss of others because only so many can meet for memorial services. This is painful. The church institution is not the only one being asked to not gather. The church is not being persecuted or attacked by being asked to not meet indoors. We are all in this together.

Are we still in this together?

Will we respond and use the tools and resources at our fingertips to point to the greatest light of all… or will we remind them that our buildings are open and that we’ll leave the light switch on for them?When the church looks at our current climate and views the world through the perspective of protecting the internal church, we forget our greater mandate. We are called to make disciples of all nations and baptise them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus sends His followers out – to go out, not stay. The church is to spread, grow, and reach as far as possible. And yet I see less reaching, and more demanding. I see churches forlorn over less people reaching for them. I see less going out and reaching the hurt, and more reminding people that their doors are open if people want to come see us. I hear dialogues of faith over fear, but continued debate as to whether God still heals today.  I see us trying to bring the nations to us, and baptise them in the name of our church building.  

Are we still in this together?

I have felt called to pray lately for this to be a time for a great movement, a great revival of the church. This is an opportunity more than ever for us to show the world who Jesus is. We are not limited by walls or microphones.  Our reach can go beyond buildings, beyond cities, and even beyond our own country because of the technology at our hands. I see a moment when we can show the world how much we care about the other and how we can be socially responsible. Let’s not miss this moment. No, we are not being persecuted right now. Let us remember our friends out on the field who have to creatively find ways to be light in dark places without having buildings to safely gather in. Let us remember those who have been imprisoned and killed for repeating John 3:16 in underground churches. Let us remember entire nations where people are taught that their leader is their deity and our friends who have memorized scripture to share orally because a printed copy would have them murdered. 

Let us remember our families who are grieving the loss of a loved one due to this virus. Let us remember our parents who go to bed each night on their knees praying – whether they believe in God or not – for their child to not catch this virus. Let us remember our essential workers who put themselves at risk to make sure that our families stay safe. 

Are we still in this together?

I’ll end on this. If we are more concerned by the inconvenience of not physically meeting with our friends who we are already on a spiritual journey with, and less concerned with how to run out and sit with the hurt and the lost, then I wonder if we are able to remember those nations and those hurting families. The world is literally begging to see the light in this dark time.  Humanity is seeking desperately for beams of hope. Society and nations are yearning to be loved and see a faith that is stronger than a virus, stronger than a man-made building. Will we respond and use the tools and resources at our fingertips to point to the greatest light of all… or will we remind them that our buildings are open and that we’ll leave the light switch on for them?  God, forgive us for pointing people to us, and not to You.

We are all in this together.

 

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