In a recent e-mail to a friend, I described some of the challenges of church ministry in this time of pandemic, political divisiveness, and social unrest. I told him, “During the past six months, pastoring a church feels like jumping out of an airplane and trying to sew your parachute as you fall.” That experience isn’t unique to church ministry, of course. Schools, businesses, community organizations, families, and everyone else are struggling with the same issues.
Circumstances are changing frequently and unpredictably. People have adopted widely differing beliefs and opinions about the nature, causes, and correct response to the pandemic and other troubles of our times, all too often folks are choosing to treat those they disagree with badly. Pandemics and social unrest have historically tended to bring the worst out in people. Covid19 and our current political climate are proving to be no different.
The challenge and the opportunity for the Church in these times is to work hard to make sure we don’t allow that to happen to us. We have to work hard to make sure we “do not conform to the world” but rather let Jesus “transform our hearts and minds” (Romans 12:2). We need to watch our emotions and attitudes and remind ourselves all the time that anger, fear, and resentment will never lead to good things. Anger and resentment will never accomplish the purposes of God (James 1:19-20).
An important corrective for our souls is to keep our focus on others and their needs and not on ourselves and our desires. We should always be asking ourselves, “What is it in my power today to do that will improve the life and well-being of someone else?” In other words—in Jesus’ words—“How can I love my neighbor today?” Resentment and bitterness are incompatible with love for my neighbor. That is especially true when the neighbor I am striving to love looks and sounds like my enemy.
Anger, resentment, fear, outrage, bitterness are all signs that your heart is on the wrong course. If you feel the stirrings of those things in your heart—and who doesn’t sometimes in these days—then call your soul back by focusing on serving the well-being of your neighbor, especially the neighbor who looks and sounds like your enemy.
If any of us are going to survive these days of pandemic and of poisonous politics and of ugly social divisions, it will be because we have chosen to push resentment and hostility away and have instead chosen to love our neighbors and our enemies.
I am convinced that we are living in a great moment of decision. The people of Christ must decide whether we will deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus by loving our neighbors and enemies, by making the concerns of others more important to us than our own concerns. If you find yourselves being driven by fear, anger, resentment, then you are not following Jesus. Push all that aside, and pursue the hard path of loving your neighbors and your enemies. If you do that, you will look up and discover Jesus right in front of you.
©2020 Gary A. Chorpenning; all rights reserved.