Coronavirus. I doubt there’s a single person reading this it hasn’t impacted. Many of us are reeling at the extent and speed with which the world around has changed, dramatically, within what seems like a nano-second. It’s mind boggling, isn’t it!
Everywhere I turn – internet, TV news, social media, family discussion – the question of the hour is ‘How long before this is over? When can we all just get back to normal?’
With that in mind the Lord and I started having a discussion about exactly what this ‘normal’ is that we’re all so desperate to get back to. It turns out that from His perspective normal looks a bit different to what it might be for most of us. Actually, it turns out He’s looking at this whole coronavirus thing from a Kingdom perspective. Surprised? Shouldn’t be.
So, this is what the ‘land of normal’ looked like before we all entered this strange and unfamiliar abnormal territory that has brought us to a screeching halt:
*Christ-followers in many nations are being persecuted more than any other time in world history. By persecution I mean oppression, torture, prison, death.
*The Name of Christ is blasphemed, mocked, derided and ridiculed across the world, especially in so called sophisticated Western nations where self is king and science is God;
*Evil is called good and good called evil. Truth is not absolute but is a matter for individual reflection and decision, therefore your truth is different to my truth and that’s all OK.
*Church attendance in western nations is decreasing faster than you can say ‘pass the offering plate’ as multitudes find Sunday services irrelevant and powerless.
*The Body of Christ is beset by rolling scandals and church splits as leaders continue to be found wanting in financial accountability, sexual morality and Christ-like humility.
*Historic sexual abuse of children within some sections of the Christian community continues to be exposed.
*In a large sector of the church political lobbying and ensuring the ’right’ candidate gets elected takes precedence over taking up our Cross to follow Christ;
*Huge amounts of money are spent on church extensions, buildings and auditoriums for the ’faithful’ while the numbers of homeless sleeping in streets and alleyways spirals out of control.
*Wars, rumours of war, and terrorism plague the planet while politicians and leaders endlessly debate and disagree but fail to come to lasting solutions.
*Unborn babies are disposed of in untold numbers due to their inconvenient timing.
*Governments routinely deceive and mislead their people for the ‘national good’.
*The oppression of women and children, human trafficking, racial discrimination, injustice towards the disabled and the poor continues to plague humanity while comfortable sections of the institutional church turn a blind eye and remain silent.
O-h-k-a-y then. Had enough? Like it or not, this is just some of the ’normal’ that existed before the virus came to light and that so many are now craving.
There was a time the Israelites wanted to go back to normal too. For them, journeying in what seemed an endless wilderness, having to rely totally on God for their next meal, their safety and their arrival at a new promised destination, was completely abnormal. What was normal was slavery in Egypt, where they ‘sat by pots of meat, and ate bread to the full’ ( Ex.16:1-3, Ex 17:3).
Forget about the cruel oppression of the Egyptians, forget about the false Egyptian gods and abhorrent sacrifices, forget that they laboured and died as slaves dominated by hard and cruel taskmasters – compared to this frightening new wilderness Egypt, looking back, was looking pretty good!
The choice for us as Christ followers is not between Egypt and the wilderness – not literally anyway. The choice is between the Kingdom of God and Babylon (the world’s systems). My spiritual antenna are telling me that things will, to some degree at least, return to that land of ‘normal’ at some time in the future, whether that be within weeks or months. I am personally not of the opinion this virus emergency is the end of the world, though it surely is another major step towards it and will most probably permanently change things for a great many people.
The question is this: when things do return to what is considered ’normal’ in this world, will we as Christ followers sigh with relief, take off running with our worldly citizenship in hand and continue business as usual, aka ‘normal life’? Or will we grab with both hands the opportunity God is handing us right now to reconsider our options and pursue more fully a different kind of ‘normal’, one where our citizenship is in the Kingdom, not the world; one where our loyalty is to Kingdom, not worldly, values; one where following Christ will become increasingly uncomfortable and costly, but something to which we are committed because we consider, above all, that the Lamb is worthy?
If there is just one thing we need to do in these extraordinary days it is to settle this question within ourselves, and not look back. Is He worthy of my total, unconditional commitment, with whatever changes in my life that may necessitate or bring? Or isn’t He?
And how shall we pray in these days of shutdowns, fear, isolation and economic chaos? Again, our God who even brings good from evil, has provided an opportunity for the Bride of Christ to change the world (but you most likely won’t hear about it on the six-p.m. news).
I am praying that during this extraordinary time when people are seeking lasting answers, doors will open for the sharing of the gospel through wisdom-based evangelism, yes, but also through acts of love that show the heart of Christ. Pray for opportunities to pray with people, to minister to them through simple acts of kindness and support. Pray for worldly mindsets based on deception and lies about who Christ is to come crashing down. Pray for miracles, signs and wonders that glorify God and reveal Christ to peoples’ hearts. Ask God what your role is. As much as possible, respect the rules and guidelines being put in place by local authorities and trust the Holy Spirit to lead and provide you with opportunities to counter the world’s fear and be a source of comfort and blessing to ordinary people.
So. Still want to go back to normal? Then let that be your prayer.
Or there’s this: ‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven’. And if this be our prayer, let His Kingdom first come fully in us.
The choice is ours.
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2020 and beyond. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.