Be Alert and Lean in
Spiritual alertness is necessary at all times, but perhaps especially in times like these. Anxiety is high, we have to work harder at staying connected with people who help us to maintain spiritual stability, and so much of what we want to know about what’s going on in the external environment is shrouded in mystery. This is a dangerous mix that provides opportunity for people with false motives – or who are merely ignorant – to do damage to or in the body of Christ. We need to be alert.
Here are some deceptions you may encounter – or may have already:
“You are on your own” – You are not on your own. Christ has promised never to leave you or forsake you. His Spirit is in you, if you belong to him. His Church is here today as it was yesterday. And though most of us may be experiencing some new level of physical isolation, we need not be – in fact, must not be – spiritually isolated. Lean in all the more right now. Strengthen spiritual connections rather than let them weaken.
“This is the end of the world!” – No one knows when the end of the world will be but God alone. Perhaps in hindsight we will come to see that this was an aspect of the final culmination; perhaps it is just another grievous marker along the way – of which there have been so many over the centuries. Those who claim to know are pretenders. Yes, “the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9) and we need to be ready. But believing we need to be ready is quite different from confidently proclaiming things that we do not, in fact, truly know. Just be ready. Don’t fall prey to those who themselves have fallen prey to this presumption.
“This is nothing to be concerned about” – Of course it is something to be concerned about. As of this writing, the cost in human life and suffering has already been significant, with the prospect of worse to come. This is no time for flippancy. On the contrary, we should be greatly sobered by all that is happening around us and our compassion should be aroused. Those who are already most vulnerable are likely to be those who are also the most hurt. How can this not cause our hearts to ache?
“Prepare the barricades!” – I do not find this in Scripture as a command for Christians. Yes, we need to be both careful (in the best sense) and wise. We need to exercise good judgment. We need to care for those who have been entrusted to us. And is it possible that there will be social unrest at some point? Of course it is possible; it has happened many times and in many places in the past. But are we to arm ourselves to protect the food in our cupboards, or cloister ourselves away where we can no longer be salt and light? Jesus instructs his followers to think and act this way: when someone demands your tunic, let him have your cloak as well (Matthew 5:40). Does this not apply equally well to bread?
What we need is a humble objectivity that has as its foundation the teachings of Scripture, coupled with a thorough-going trust in the God who rules over all things. In short, we need to beware of deceivers and be spiritually alert – now more than ever.