“Unprecedented” was the foremost adjective for the first half of 2020. And we haven’t even started the second half.
The Covid-19 pandemic moved us to repeat, “I’ve never seen anything like this before” again and again. Around the world people have been locked in quarantine, and restricted in travel. We’ve been required to observe social distancing, record contact tracing, wear masks, and sanitize our hands wherever we went. That’s all new.
Just as some countries have made marked progress in their fight against the virus, George Floyd’s death ignited protests of many kinds along with widespread violence and vandalism. The videos of action related to this event are often tragic and alarming.
These events incite strong and polarizing opinions, cramp our style and frustrate our plans. Yet if all we see are the negatives, we miss a substantial element of God’s work in believers.
While experiences like these may rock our world, God has allowed them for his own purposes. He not only gives Christians the strength to get through these trying times. He gives more. If we will, we can use these events as unprecedented opportunities to shine our light in unusual ways.
How can I shine my light into the darkness? By modeling these qualities:
Submission to authority.
As I read my Bible, I see God’s command to submit to authority, even when I don’t agree, as long as that authority isn’t asking me to violate God’s standard. (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Timothy 2:1-2, 1 Peter 2:17)
As a Christian leader, when I submit to the government in something that seems unreasonable or silly to me, I model a biblical principle. Every person on earth is under some kind of authority. Christian leaders are not a law unto themselves. If I pick and choose what rules I want to follow, I’ve missed the opportunity to model submission. All Christians are under authority of some kind. Submission to any rightful authority over me is part of my submission to God.
Patience in dealing with annoying requirements.
Rules about social distancing, masks, hand sanitizers, and the like can be extremely frustrating. Even more so if I don’t believe they are necessary. It’s easy to lash out at the worker in the store who is enforcing these rules, complain to my friends, or quietly disregard the rules. Week after week of compliance can sorely try my faith — which is precisely how it works for my good. Things that try my faith are a gift from God. These annoyances give me the building blocks to build patience into my life. (James 1:2) That silly, senseless rule that irritates me presents an opportunity to vent my frustration or build my patience. My choice determines if I become better or bitter.
Compassion for those in crisis.
While the pandemic and the protests cause me inconvenience, the same events cause true hardship and crisis in the lives of some people. If God gives the opportunity, I can show his love in a tangible and striking way. I have to look beyond myself to recognize these opportunities. My compassion can bring hope to others and have eternal consequences if I use the opportunities God puts in my path.
Dealing with debatable issues in a respectful way.
We live in the unprecedented age of social media when we can share our opinions with a few clicks of a mouse. Social media stirs our anger and gives us an outlet to vent with an efficiency we wouldn’t have dreamed of a few decades ago. Memes and videos are so tempting to share. They can be a good way to share my opinion about an important issue when I can back it up with the facts. But it’s also easy to share exaggerated and highly emotive posts just because they are funny and they allow me to vent. But consistently dealing with issues and people I disagree with in a respectful way shines a light of integrity into a world that greatly needs it.
Playing fair with the facts.
Any political event can be shared by various reporters in a way that supports their agenda. Even truthful accounts of an event can be presented in a variety of ways that may make a political figure look brave or cowardly, smart or foolish, nice or mean-spirited. It’s easy to believe the best about the politicians you support and the worst about the ones you don’t. It takes little effort to share reports these days, but it takes real effort to check the facts. Many times it’s impossible to know for sure what the facts are. Posting claims that damage a person’s reputation when we can’t verify the facts is reckless, if not slander. (Proverbs 6:16, 19) We model integrity when we show respect, but also when we resist the temptation to share posts that don’t play fair with the facts.
Peace during uncertain and unprecedented times.
Recently I’ve been listening to the song “My Hope Is Jesus” by Ron Hamilton. The chorus goes like this:
My hope is Jesus – the anchor of my soul,
the ruler of the universe, the One Who’s in control.
He saved me, and He will keep me till the end.
The rock of my salvation – on Christ I will depend.
My hope is Jesus.
Our dark world is desperately in need of hope. Even our churches need Christians whose hope truly is Jesus. 2020 has become a disturbing year in many ways. I can let these troubling events steal my peace, but then I’ve lost the opportunity to model hope. I may not understand what’s going on in my world. I may not have the answers to the problems around me. But when I focus on Christ instead of the tidal waves of current events, I can model unshakable faith.
Submission, patience, compassion, respect, fairness, peace. Our world needs to see these Christian virtues more than ever before. The church needs to see living, breathing models of these virtues. We have opportunities to let our light shine in unprecedented ways. Today. Right where we are.
Let’s take advantage of these opportunities and let our light shine.