Mark 13:20 "If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them.”
March 18th, 2023
Catalyst Bunker, Rural Midwest
I am out of peas. I realize that this seems like a small thing to people who may not have had to survive this way, but to me, it is another step in the dismal march toward extinction. I was at first concerned about my meat store, but I now realize I am more terrorized by the loss of my cans of peas. I have 127 days left of carrots. 48 more days of beans and about the same amount of canned carrots line my shelves. I just never thought I’d run out of anything. At my current pace, I am able to read about a book a day, although given the fact that I shall not be attending a dinner party anytime soon, I am beginning to question their value. I have settled into a day in, day out grayish existence… but I will exist. Or will I?
I have often wondered, and I hope you won’t judge me for my overactive imagination, if sequestering myself away in an apocalypse-proof bunker would be worth it. I have determined that the only things that make life worth living are not things at all. They are relationships. Relationships with God through Christ and you, also through Christ. Quarantine has taught most of us one of two premises for survival.
1. Relationships endanger my safety, or
2. Relationships are the purpose of my life.
The two could not be more contrary. They may, in certain circumstances, both be true.
In a binary world, I am forced to choose one or the other, when in fact I may need to understand and act on both as true. Let me explain how the two concepts work in tandem to create value.
In 250 AD, a vicious plague was sweeping through Rome. The Cyprian plague was wiping out as many as 5000 Romans each day. While those who had embraced the Roman philosophies of the day, were challenged with a response to the legitimate danger, they, for the most part, fled. Christians, on the whole, did the exact opposite.
According to The Gospel Coalition online Magazine, in an article, referenced a Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, report. Responding to Pandemics: 4 Lessons from Church History MARCH 16, 2020 GLEN SCRIVENER, “Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead.” Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 7.22.7–10
One may be able to compare the fatality figures to the worldwide, Covid-19 pandemic. What we would struggle to compare would be the emotional, spiritual and mental destruction of each. Death is tragic no matter its causes. What I do know is that pastors are being torn to shreds by congregations that have determined the Pastor’s responsibility in the crisis.
“Do what they want!”
It is a more complex scenario than picking a side and running with it. There are emotions involved. My answer to the chasm between people is pastors is that we become all things to all men in order that a few may understand Christ. I realize the difficulty of this call, particularly during this period of history. It also may be better to state that a pastor cannot do this in their own strength. The role is too big for us.
I just left a social media ministry post board between youth workers. There was a full-fledged battle of ideologies. The youth pastor that fired the first shot was no more responsible than the people who attacked him. The irony is that at some point, he called on his right to voice his one opinion on this social platform. The opposition tore him to shreds citing his intolerance while demonstrating that he was not only allowed his opinion, but then, in an open display of hostility, belittled a brother in Christ.
Can I be clear. As a messenger of the cross, I forfeited my right to my personal opinion long ago. Scripture is unclear in some areas, admittedly, but in respect to our commitment, grace and agape’ love for each other, it is not only clear, it is our foundation, core and strength. The problem was not in the side he chose, although I might add I felt it was a ridiculous statement. It was not even in the fact that he stated it. It is that both sides of this war felt entitlement while showing no grace to a member of the spiritual family. Shame on us. Father forgive us.
I hate the extremes most often. Not the people who hold to them. This season of extremes has revealed us as believers and the bride of Christ as exactly what the world has believed all along: contentious, self righteous, judgmental people who are willing to go to war with each other in order to win the debate or argument. I am ashamed of my people. I am grieved for our part in driving people away from the message of Christ’s love, the body of Christ. We must sadden our Father. We are the whoring bride in love with our own voices and at the expense of truth, we obliterate each other. When conviction of sin creates a visceral reaction to each other we have attempted to take on the mantle of the Holy Spirit while ignoring His voice.
The Bible offers no less than 59 “One Anothers” in the New Testament. Read these 21. They are convicting at the fringes of radicalism. They are our path out of segmented, destructive, I’m entitled to my own opinion, path we have chosen.
1. “Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)
2. “Love one another.” (Romans 13:8)
3. “Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)
4. “If you keep on biting and devouring each other … you will be destroyed by each other.” ?(Galatians 5:15)
5. “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)
6. “Carry each other’s burdens.” (Galatians 6:2)
7. “Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
8. “Be kind and compassionate to one another.” (Ephesians 4:32)
9. “Forgiving each other.” (Ephesians 4:32)
10. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)
11. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)
12. “In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
13. “Do not lie to each other.” (Colossians 3:9)
14. “Bear with each other.” (Colossians 3:13)
15. “Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)
16. “Encourage each other.” I Thessalonians 5:11)
17. “Build each other up.” (I Thessalonians 5:11)
18. “Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)
19. “Live in harmony with one another.” (I Peter 3:8)
20. “Love each other deeply.” (I Peter 4:8)
21. “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” (I Peter 5:5)
My response to the pandemic, the fire that will either destroy me or refine me, is that I will value you. Your life matters, more than mine. Your fears are my courage. I will be a mask wearer to mask wearers. I will value the meeting together and be creative and tireless in my pursuit of you, the wandering lambs who have been scattered for this time.
Lord, my prayer today is for those of us torn by conflict. It is for those angry at the uncontrollable things. I pray that we will come under your conviction and turn to each other in love. I pray for the end of Covid. I pray for the end of wrongful deaths, racial injustice, political dissension, and I pray that you come quickly.
In Jesus loving sacrifice,