“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2 NLT
A world darkened by the COVID 19 virus is a world in which the gospel of Christ can shine the brightest. Our invisible God of Love become visible when we are living as the children of God shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people (Philippians 2:15). The Risen Christ become visible when the followers of Christ are living as the invisible Body of Christ in complete harmony giving praise and glory to God, our Heavenly Father with one voice (Romans 15:4-6).
The COVID 19 may be more a messenger than an enemy – to teach us the truth that “grace is found at the depths and in the death of everything.” This, according to Richard Rohr, is what we will learn if we are honest and acknowledge that we are dying throughout our life.
The Heightened Alert restrictions are golden opportunities to do so as we cultivate the habit of silence and solitude. We need to take time to stand before God’s throne of grace and wait for the Holy Spirit to fill us with his love:
“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!”
Romans 5:3-5 MSG
The times of Heightened Alert are times of “Alert Expectancy” to watch how God becomes visible to the world when the Holy Spirit fully controls us and we bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self control. These are times to turn from being a part of the crowd who are following Jesus for his miracles of healing. For we are called to be a part of God’s Covenant Community of love by being followers of Christ who are living out the Messianic Pattern of sacrifice and service:
“Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out.” (Romans 15:1-3, MSG)
The social distancing measures necessitated by the need to control the COVID 19 virus reveal the limitations of the visible church as well as the potential of the invisible church. These are challenging times for followers of Christ live out the truths that they are the Body of Christ and the living temples for the Holy Spirit.
We are no longer constrained by the physical limitations of space and time. However, we are more exposed to the viruses of lust, pride, greed, anger, envy and gluttony in the social media. We need the Holy Spirit to draw us and bind us together in small groups to encourage one another as well as to share our burdens and struggles. It is in small groups that we learn to love one another. And God’s love is perfected in us when He resides in us (1 John 4:12 NET). No one can see God but the world can see the love of God in our love for one another.
Instead of asking God to deliver us from the COVID 19 pandemic, we can thank God for the peace that is beyond all human understanding when we turn our eyes to Jesus to face our fears with faith in God’s providence and protection. When we know how much God loves us and we put our trust in his love, perfect love drives out all fear:
“God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.” 1 John 4:16-17 NLT
In our times of suffering, we have the comfort of God’s loving Presence through the Holy Spirit and have the joy that is unspeakable. We can pray for the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to the glimpses of Truth that will set us free to live out the perfect love of God in these difficult times and to care for one another.
The real battle is not with the COVID 19 virus but within our hearts. To overcome our reactions of fear and doubt, to be freed from guilt, we need to develop the simple habits of faith – silence, feeding on God’s Word, prayer, practicing compassion and building community. These habits are not to make us successful Christians but to open our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit so that we can be faithful and fruitful disciples of Christ. Loving one another then becomes our second nature. And as the Holy Spirit binds us together as the invisible Body of Christ, our Heavenly Father will be glorified as He becomes visible to the world. Let us renew our minds as we pray to the Holy Spirit:
“Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us—
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises,
And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, till Your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory.”