April 29, 2020
There are many things for which I am grateful. Today, I want to focus on three of them. But let me set up what I am about to say with a close to real-life scenario.
Imagine that you are the elected head of government. You have your position only because you won a close election, and your ability to stay in that position will only be because you win what appears to be another close election. You are charged with leading your country's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and you are faced with the following choice: 1) You could take draconian steps and lock down the population in order to "flatten the curve" or 2) You could trust your people to make decisions that make sense for them, knowing that some will not pick wisely and allow the disease to run its course. Under the first scenario, one million people die, the economy is devastated, but their deaths are spread out over 12 months. Under the second scenario, one million people die in 4 months, but the economy is not seriously disrupted. What would you choose?
If you choose the first course, your political adversaries can accuse you of being a dictator and economic idiot who chooses emotion over fact and has needlessly destroyed the economy. Expect tons of commercials highlighting people who lost jobs and are suffering as a result. If you choose the second course, your political adversaries can accuse of you being a cold-hearted, money-grubbing politician who could care less that people are dying as long as your corporate big-wig buddies get to keep their companies running. Expect tons of commercials highlighting people who lost family members to the virus. Do you see the dilemma? No matter what you do, your adversaries will find a way to paint you in the worst possible light.
Here is another wrinkle. There may be a third, fourth and fifth option. There may be treatment plan for this virus that is discovered in the next 30 days that saves thousands of lives, or a vaccine that is developed and distributed in the next 6 months that saves hundreds of thousands from getting sick or a study on herd immunization in the next 9 months that guides national policies in a much clearer way, or...or...or... you get my point. One year from now, will we look back and say that we got it right? Probably not.
1. I am so grateful for God's Word.
I cannot imagine standing in front of you (or the camera at the moment) and acting as if I know what I am talking about, asking you to trust me, follow me and do what I tell you to do, all the while thinking, "I sure hope this works." I cannot imagine telling you to "stay strong" and "have hope" without giving you rock-solid reasons for your perseverance in hope. I am so grateful that, for thousands of years, God's Word has stood firm. It is not at the mercy of information coming out in 30 days, 6 months, or 9 months that will render its counsel unwise or false. No one embracing God's counsel has to choose between empathy and truth. There is no study that is going to be done that will render God's direction as being misdirected.
We will not make every decision about our response to this virus perfectly, but we will never go wrong in following God's Word. And here is another reason why this is so comforting. The virus affects our perishable mortal bodies, while the gospel secures our souls, which will inherit an imperishable and immortal body. I would rather us be in a bit of a guessing game about our bodies than guess about our souls.
2. I am grateful that our church is led by elders.
In each membership class, I explain how the New Testament provides a leadership structure for the local church that is best described as being: elder-led and congregational-ruled. The congregation is the ultimate court of appeals, but the congregation vests authority into the elders to lead. While we are convinced from the Scriptures that this is the biblical model, it is at times like this when the wisdom of that structure is on display. Right now the elders are discussing the scope and the details of a plan to restart our services together. We have members who are basically unaffected by this who want to get back together and really have very little reason not to. We also have members who are very susceptible to this and are very concerned about getting back together. We have members who have had their jobs disproportionately hurt by the lock down policies who feel like caged lions, and we have members who have watched dozens and dozens of patients die (and who continue to die) and will be feeling the emotional and relational toll of this for months and months to come. We have members who are single people who really feel isolated and discouraged and people in large families who have been very creative with their response to this. Not only is it unlikely that one leader is going to be able to take every person into consideration in thinking about how to re-start services, but if there is only one leader, that leader has his own personality. Therefore, I am grateful for the boldness of some of our elders and the cautiousness of others. I am grateful for those who have strong convictions about the necessity of fellowship and the sensitivity that no member be ignored or overlooked.
3. I am grateful for these elders.
I know you are being prayed for because I hear them praying for you. I know that you are loved because I hear and, in some cases, observe how that is being expressed. I know that you are being led well, because I see it first hand in how ideas are presented, discussed, modified, and eventually presented.
We are still working on the restart plan and hope to present it soon. We do not work under the expectation that we will get it perfect--we won't. We do work under the desire to honor God and love you well and that, I am convinced, we will accomplish.
This season is wearing on all of us. But, let us not be weary in good things. If you have been praying more, keep praying. If you have been checking in on others, keep it up. If you have been diligent in guarding your heart, don't stop now. If you have been more sensitive to God, more humble, more burdened for others, more concerned about your family members and friends who do not know Christ, stay concerned. We do not want our desire to get out from under this to erase the long term good that God intends for us to learn.
Grace and peace,