When I was a little kid, I remember my brother did some sort of mannerism that was just like dad. Perhaps the way he stretched, way he yawned, or even maybe something he said. However, with my dad in the room, I said, “Matt, Dad is sure like you”. My Dad raised his eyebrow.
The statement caught my Dad’s attention and now, as a parent, I get it. My dad was not like Matt. It was the other way around. Matt was exhibiting characteristics which he learned and modeled from my dad. Not vice versa.
If we are not careful, we can do the exact same thing with our Heavenly Father. We have a single focus of who God is based on our understanding, interaction, and even our own personality mixed-in. However, God cannot be contained by what we are able to perceive by all of man-kind – yet alone one person.
We are made in the image of God. We are to be like Him, not Him like us.
And the beauty of God, seen all the way in the Garden when God made both Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:27), is that He makes us with different personalities, characteristics, attributes, insights, and gifts which is just a sliver of what it means to be like Him. Together in unity, as one body, we can more perfectly – though never perfect – reflect what it means to be like Christ.
This is vitally important for us to consider in our current culture as we see more division than ever before. Our world is more apt to share our opinions and take sides, rather than listen and have a heartfelt conversation. This is a by-product in part to our constant news culture, social media, and self-isolation (even before COVID); however, it is all rooted in a desire to evaluate life by what is “right in our own eyes” (Judges 21:5).
And this is what sets us apart from the world as the Church. We are unified as one body in Christ (1 Corinthians 12).
Galatians 3:28 states, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” There are 59 “one another” verses in Scripture in which we are to place the needs of others first.
In I Corinthians 1:10, Paul urged the early Church to guard and fight against divisions. He wrote “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
And part of that, especially during the time of COVID 19, is to understand and encourage one another. We need to recognize the different personalities, character traits, and spiritual gifts He has given us. In doing so, we are united as one body and act more in the fullness of His grace, righteousness, and character.
Good Godly men and women have wrestled with truth and different aspects of the same subject as they seek to obey God. And where this is pertinent today is as it relates to COVID-19 – so let me speak to this directly.
I have observed three main categories of what it means to be obedient as the Church during this time. Note, the title names does not mean that the other groups are not responding with the same characteristics; however, I needed some type of label to provide their overall thought.
1) Some are focusing on the obedience of worshipping as one body. We need to be together. We need to be one body. We need to have a bold presence within our community so the world knows that our hope is in Christ and not let anything stop us from worshipping His name. Need to demonstrate the hope that is found in Christ, not fear, and the world should know we will never compromise our witness.
2) Some are focusing on the obedience of being a testimony through following authority that has God has placed over us. We need to be a testimony of obedience to God first and then to the system He has placed over us. The burdens placed on the Church is beyond what is being asked of other like entities. That the Church is not being singled out.
3) Some are focusing on the obedience of demonstrating care and compassion. People are being infected and dying. We have Church members who are more susceptible and we need to demonstrate care to them. Likewise, by following government guidelines, like social distancing and wearing a mask, it is a testimony to the community that because we care we are able to to worship and minister in a different format.
There is great truth and perspective in all three points of view (and I am sure there are more perspectives out there!). Personally, I wrestle with all three of them.
None of the actions are motivated by fear. All of them are focused on obedience and being a testimony. These three points are why we switched from Zoom and worship on-campus. We need to be together as the body of Christ, to sing His praises, and be a testimony. We also need to be good citizens who demonstrate care and compassion to those around us.
We desire to move inside; however, we want to make sure that this is done in a safe and effective manner. We need people to volunteer. We need people to be sensitive to the safety of our members as we gather together. This doesn’t mean we have to agree, but it means to have unity with one another.
We know that this is not comfortable or ideal. We are being stretched. However, we are a being stretched out of love as we step out in faith. And the beauty is that when we do, He increases our knowledge of Him that we may be effective and fruitful in our walk with Him (2 Peter 1:3-8)
Whether it is the current circumstance or other issues we face together as a Church, it is important to remind ourselves that the fullness of God is not in what I am able to comprehend. God has revealed Himself in a sufficient and full manner through His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
I am spurred on by the need to have heart felt conversations with those who I know love the Lord deeply. To understand more fully Scripture and how the Spirit has convicted them – as He likewise has convicted me. And perhaps through those conversations, as I yield to the Spirit’s work through Scripture, I am molded and shaped a little, and they are too. That I might be made more in His image, than asking Him to be made in mine. (And quite frankly, I would rather look like Him!)
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For "Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." [1Pe 3:8-12 ESV]