Updated: Apr 17, 2020
Our present circumstances, not only on American soil but across the globe, will undoubtedly change various facets of our lives. In regards to public health, economic systems, and governmental authorities, we may very well be living on the cusp of a new era. Nobody can know for certain what life will look like in this next decade, and, regardless of this global pandemic, societies change at varying degrees over the course of time. However, as the church, we need to be prepared for what the future might hold.
Our preparedness as Christians does often differ from that of the non believer. We of course can budget our finances and reorganize our personal goals, but ultimately our preparation exists outside the material world. As Paul explains in Ephesians 6:12, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." Our battle is spiritual.
This does not mean that we need to or should ignore the physical happenings of the world around us. We still live in this world even if we are not of this world, and it would be wise to pay attention to our current situation. That being said, in order to exist in the world in an impactful way without adopting the patterns, philosophies, and priorities of the world, we need to have a standard by which we measure all things.
This standard for many comes in the form of security, comfort, and stability, yet these placebos cannot possible nurture us completely. These wells will sooner or later dry up. Fortunately, we have an eternal standard in the figure of Jesus Christ. Paul writes in the book of Colossians, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:15-17)
In what changes might come, it will be increasingly tempting to look at the frivolousness of political parties, personal security, and human moralists in order to determine our stance on certain issues. These, however, are a doomed hope. We must look to the one through whom and for whom all things were made, the one who holds all things together. Jesus is the standard we need to have in our lives. All good flows directly from him, and nothing that is good exists apart from him.
As the Nazi party continued to tighten its grip on Germany, a pastor by the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer struggled on how to remain impactful for the kingdom of God despite the shift in the German church's priorities. He continuously tried to alter the church's attitude toward Hitler's decrees, sometimes to no avail. As many theologians and pastors in Germany gave their allegiance to the Führer, Bonhoeffer and a handful of others stood fast against the wave of hatred and brutality that drowned Germany in the mid 1900's. It is clear as to why they were able to do so. Bonhoeffer writes, "The children of the Church, who had become independent and gone their own ways, now in the hour of danger returned to their mother. During the time of their estrangement, their appearance and their language had altered a great deal, and yet at the crucial moment the mother and children once again recognized one another. Reason, justice, culture, humanity and all the kindred concepts sought and found a new purpose and a new power in their origin. This origin is Jesus Christ."
I am not saying that we are headed towards a totalitarian government resembling Nazi Germany (though you will find some stirrings of that thought throughout the different platforms of social media). I am, however, saying that, regardless of what takes place over the coming months and years, we need to be grounded in Jesus Christ and him alone. The church cannot declare allegiance to one political party, economic system, or humanitarian development. We as Christians must base our decisions, our thoughts, and our actions on him. Jesus is the unmovable rock that will not fade with war, famine, or time.
As I wrap up this thought, I am reminded of a quote from Malcom Muggeridge. After traversing quickly through his own witness to history, recounting the rise and fall of the most powerful empires and their emperors and their inevitable futility, he writes, "All in one lifetime, all gone. Gone with the wind. Behind the debris of these self-styled, sullen supermen and imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone mankind might still have hope. The person of Jesus Christ."