Things have been changing very rapidly lately. Many have been shuttered into homes, masks and gloves are appearing everywhere, and churches have largely been relegated to modified and digitally dispersed services. Some have even begun to call this a “new normal.” In this short and more general post, I want to plead with you from the depths of my heart to resist with all that is in you calling this “a new normal”. The current climate of uncertainty, fear, disruption, weekly governmental orders, and social distancing simply cannot become the “new normal.” I repeat, we cannot and must not allow this to become the new normal.
That is not to say, however, that nothing needs to change. When by God’s grace this pandemic dissipates, our communities will have significant obstacles to overcome. Already jobs have been cut. Already lives have been lost. Families will face serious strains. The economy is teetering. But I would much rather have obstacles to overcome than get used to living down a dark and lonely hole of despair and digital isolation.
It is not too soon to begin thinking about how we as citizens, neighbors, friends, and church members will work to reclaim relationships and rebuild our lives in the aftermath of this unusual time. That must be our new normal. Not the measures to prevent the spread, but the changes that need to be made in our hearts and approaches to life. With that in mind, I would like to offer a first installment of observations about we can learn from this pandemic. It has exposed some big problems in our society. With God’s help, if we take them to heart we may be able to achieve a far better “normal.”
The Lord Jesus himself taught that storms and great trials will test and expose the faithful or faulty bases of our lives (Matt 7:24-27). Now that we are a few weeks into this dramatically altering national storm, the winds have blown some coverings away from some remarkable things. I would like to focus my comments upon these three themes: frailty, inconsistency, and community.
1) Frailty. If this pandemic has shown us anything, it is that our boasted American economy is not the indestructible juggernaut we once thought it was. Have you come to trust it and the riches that it offered? My sincere condolences. The Bible says that to work to acquire wealth and to trust in riches is risky business (Prov. 11:28, 23:4-5). Maybe over leveraging debt and maxing out credit cards was not the greatest idea after all (Prov. 22:7).
This present crisis has reminded me, and must inform you, that the Word of God remains true: “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death” (Prov. 11:4). While remaining diligent in our earthly callings, I believe we all need to remember the frailty and futility of earthly riches. I urge you especially to consider the One who was rich and became poor for the sake of sinners so that they might become truly rich in Him, the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor 8:9). There is no frailty in the riches of His grace.
2) Inconsistency. I will tread very carefully here lest you misunderstand me. As a Christian and a Reformed pastor, I have very deeply-held views with respect to the sanctity and value of human life. I believe that we must take all lawful measures to preserve a person’s life from conception until their last breath. It is for that reason that I have had some perplexity as I have watched the drastic and crippling measures being taken in our community, state, nation, and even the world in response to SARS CoV-2.
We have been told—and rightly, I might add—that the elderly and immunocompromised are most at risk for a fatal effect from this virus. While not in the least discounting the value of the elderly or infirm, I simply have one question to ask here: where is the all-out effort to preserve the lives of the millions who have been ripped out of their mothers’ wombs? Since January 1, 2020, the WHO reports that there have been 11.4 million abortions worldwide, with over 230,000 in the USA. Compare that to a reported global death toll from COVID-19 of slightly less than 86,000 to date, and slightly less than 13,000 in the USA.
Please do not misread me. There is a real human being behind every number we see on statistical reports. That so many have died is terrible. But I am conscience-bound to point out the glaring and utter inconsistency here. How can a nation and world say we are trying to save lives in one place while our tax dollars and “essential-work” labels get awarded to the modern infanticide industry. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Prov. 15:3). God is not mocked. If our nation and world really values life, then we desperately need a “new normal” here, not to mention some consistency.
3) Community. Whether in society at large, the church, or the family, we need personal interaction. Teachers need to be with their students, pastors with their congregations, and parents with their children. A face on a screen is nice when circumstances necessitate it, but we ought never to grow satisfied with it. The urge for community, for actual in-person relationship and interaction, is something that God wove into the very fabric of our humanity and must be preserved.
After pronouncing almost everything in the Garden of Eden good, the Lord said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). Then the Wise Creator fashioned the first woman Eve. He gave her to Adam not to be his distant servant but his close companion. Jesus calls his congregations to gather together, to worship, and to enjoy the sacrament of his body and blood only in that setting of coming together (1 Cor 11:17, 18, 20). God’s Word remains true to this day. We were not made for isolation. We were not designed for social distancing. Of course we ought to continue to take appropriate measures for now, but only for now. While we must be content and quiet under the hand of God (1 Pet 5:6), we also must resist the urge to “get used” to this. Do not let this become a new normal.
It is the human tendency to desire things to be normal. But if what I have written is true, then what we see presently must not be it. Take these matters to heart. Think of other things that may need to change (there are more, believe me). Let us all use this time to learn, not to return to the way things were, but to pursue the way things ought to be.
Photo credit: Angela Smith