1 Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own,
body and soul,
in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life.
I hold onto those words in these days we’ve been facing for the past eight months or so. “I am not my own but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” These words come from the Heibelberg Catechism, a statement of faith that comes to us out of Germany in the year 1563. It has been used by Reformed and Presbyterian churches throughout the world as an important teaching tool since that time.
The truth expressed in that first question and answer from the catechism has been a comfort and a strength to me. I do not often find myself thinking anxiously about my physical health. Occasionally, when I hear of someone very like me dying from Covid19, I think about my own health. Occasionally, when I hear about the long-lasting, persistent effects of the virus that some people are experiencing, I am reminded that this coronaviral has the potential to be a debilitating disease, even if it doesn’t kill you.
But, no, I don’t often feel a need for comfort from anxieties about my personal health. These are, however, intensely trying times to be trying to navigate a church through the uncertainties and challenges of a Covid19 world, angry politics, and social unrest. The words of the Heidelberg Catechism remind me that my life, our church, and our world belong to God. God takes care of what belongs to him.
Later in the catechism we read these words:
26 Q. What do you believe when you say,
“I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth”?
A. That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who out of nothing created heaven and earth
and everything in them,
who still upholds and rules them
by his eternal counsel and providence,
is my God and Father
because of Christ the Son.
I trust God so much that I do not doubt
he will provide
whatever I need
for body and soul,
and will turn to my good
whatever adversity he sends upon me
in this sad world.
God is able to do this because he is almighty God
and desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.
The catechism reminds me that “whatever adversity he sends upon me in this sad world” God is able and determined to “turn to my good.” That is because he is “almighty God” and “a faithful Father.” Our God is more than able to carry us and his Church through the trials and adversities of these times.
As he carries us, he gives us the task of living as his disciples. The task before the people of God now is to decide that we will not allow divisions stemming from Covid19 and the angry politics of our time to take priority over obedience to our one Lord Jesus Christ. He commands us to love and care for one another regardless of party affiliation or preferred candidate, regardless of views on how to respond to Covid19, regardless of . . . well, regardless of everything else.
As Jesus points out, there’s nothing particularly remarkable if we love and actively care for those who share our political views or those think the way we do about Covid19. Everyone does that. To be a disciple of Jesus means he expects us to love and actively care for the people who vote for the “other guy” and the “other party,” who don’t want to respond to Covid19 the way you do. Doing that is what makes Christians remarkable. That is what will show the world that disciples of Jesus are a different sort of people.
Loving our “enemies” means treating them with compassion, kindness, gentleness, humility, and patience (Colossians 3:12). Can you love those others like that? If you can’t, that needs to be project number one for you. It’s hard work. It doesn’t come easily. You won’t succeed all the time. I certainly don’t. But I want to. If you want to also, but it doesn’t come easily, spend extra time on your knees and in your Bible, asking God to help you grow in this love.
Now, here’s the real serious question. I just asked if you can love your “enemies” the way Jesus tells you to. But the more important question is this, are you willing to love and care for your “enemies”? To be a disciple of Jesus means to want what he wants. To be a disciple of Jesus means to want to do what he wants you to do. You might fail sometime, maybe a lot of the time. You may stumble and fall in your efforts to live the way he wants you to and to love the way he wants you to. But to be a disciple of Jesus means to want to love and care for the people who vote differently than you do.
I know folks who will tell you that they are not willing to love their “enemies.” They need to understand that they then forfeit the right to call themselves disciples of Jesus. To be a disciple of Jesus is to obey Jesus and follow him. With Jesus, loving our “enemies” and treating them with compassion, with kindness, with love is not optional.
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.“Matthew 5:43-47 [NLT]
Let’s live like that and really show the world something different. Because if God is carrying us, as the Heidelberg Catechism tells us, then we can really afford to throw caution to the wind and live like crazy Jesus followers. That’s the only real blessing we have to offer the world. Now’s the time. Let’s do it for Jesus and for the world that he loves.
(c) 2020 Gary A. Chorpenning; all rights reserved.