We have a lot in front of us. The end of the COVID-era seems to be approaching. Although there seems to be a step back for every step forward, at least we are moving forward. This doesn’t mean we’ll be going back to normal. In fact, the normal we knew before is dead.
Many of will grasp for the past looking for the comfortable. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, if the past we hold onto results in two steps back for every step forward, then that is not effective, nor does it fulfill our mission to Go and (p)Reach. The promise of restoration that we find in Jeremiah is indeed a message of hope. In it, though, is an underlying truth. The restoration is to the place of home/old with a new model.
The exiles would certainly enter the Promised Land again. However, they wouldn’t return to either the ways that led them to exile, nor would they return to the glory years of David and Solomon. It would be something new.
For those who remembered the old Temple, the new (to be built) temple would be a shadow of the old, and they would (understandably) mourn its loss while rejoicing with the new. Others would have only legends, dreams, and “when I was your age” stories. They would not be able to rely on the old ways. They would have to forge a new way of being in the midst of their ongoing identity.
Part of our new way of being is the reality that Christians are a minority, and even the treasured word Evangelical is almost a curse at this point. It right and understandable to mourn and grieve. It is also expected that we will be in a mode of reflection and repentance for a while, as we try to heal the rifts of our own brokenness, and the division solidified because of it and the brokenness of others.
John writes that we shouldn’t be surprised that people of the world hate us. Nor should we look for their hatred, which sometimes seems to be our default response. Nor are we to behave in a way that will solidify their hatred or their negative opinion of us. Of course, this does not mean we water down the message of reconciliation, repentance, change of heart, and resurrection.
How we do it is in a state of flux. Relations are definitely a way to allow communicating the message. There will always be a place of action of the heart (i.e., compassionate ministries). There will also always be a place for preaching. There is no one way, anymore. In fact, there never was.
We are in an awkward place where we need to be functioning in a reconciling, repenting, and heart-changing relationship with our fellow Christians. That may indeed need to come first, and only a united church will reach the world (and denominations have their place, too). Only when Christians aren’t ripping into each other and living the moral life that they are called will the world bother to listen to us. Maybe, just maybe, then they will be open to hearing about Jesus.
The future is never fully in focus. The church may be a shell. It may be completely reinvented. It may return to the First Century. The church may change, but the message never will.
- What has been the hardest thing about interacting with people the last year or so? What has been the greatest thing?
- What is the one thing you are holding onto from our pre-COVID era? What are you grieving about that we are losing from the pre-COVID era?
- These things that we are holding onto, are they for the benefit of the mission to reach the world for Christ, or are they our place of comfort?
Lord, the Giver of Life, we need to find the path that will lead us in such a way as to bring life and life-giving water to the world. Help us to be strong in the face of difficulties and change. Fill us with your grace and love so that we see others as bearers of the image of God, no matter about which we disagree. Amen.