- by Russell Croft
Faith, Peace and COVID19
How peaceful is life right now? There are a myriad of answers to that question, depending on how the Coronavirus lockdowns have affected people around the world. For some people it has been business as usual, but for many it has impacted their physical health, social health, financial health, and mental health. All of these things can affect the foundational spiritual wellbeing of people and communities, which can in turn reflect back positive or negative reverberations in these areas of our lives. Rejection of medical advice, protests against government sanctions, arguments on social media, and conspiracy theories abound right now. Unprecedented levels of social unrest have taken over as people grow restless in lockdown and are becoming concerned for their future. Many have lost their lives or loved ones or are currently living under the threat of such loss. Many more have lost their jobs and finances. Those still working have been placed under increasing pressure as new health regulations affect their daily routines and mindsets. Peace is taking a back seat as fear over financial security and increasing governmental controls has begun to rise. Have you noticed this fear presenting in your own body? Are you more at ease or anxious in these novel times?
Leading the way?
When our spiritual wellbeing is shaky, uncertain times can create more fear. If our spirit is at peace, then external impacts will have less opportunity to erode the more positive countenance that such a peace can instill. Our spiritual leaders should be leading the way in a peaceful, hope-filled response to everything going on right now, but often they are not. The loudest of them are fighting for their “freedoms” to hold large gatherings, to refuse the best medical advice currently at hand, to protest lockdowns and spread conspiracy theories. The fear-based approach has instilled and encouraged a fear-based response in many who follow them around the world. The sad thing is that this fear gives many Christians away. We either do not trust God enough, or do not believe that God is ultimately trustworthy. We live in fear of *His* judgments on humanity or fear of the failure of *His* kingdom (or our "Christian nation") without our intervention. We love God, we believe in *Him*, but we do not trust that *His* redemptive will and plan for creation will be realised unless we make it happen the way we think it should. Instead of trusting in a good God, we are fearful of either an ineffectual God, or a vindictive one, neither of which have any grounding in biblically Christian belief.
Following Christ's example
Neither the early Christians, nor Jesus himself, responded to uncertain futures or the threat of certain death in fear. They trusted in their good Father, a loving, nurturing parent that sheltered them from ultimate harm like a Mother hen. They faced persecution, death and uncertainty with peace. They did not allow fear to separate them from each other or from their unbelieving communities. Stephen identified with his killers as he was martyred, asking as Jesus and many others after him did for their forgiveness. Paul embraced unbelieving culture, encouraging people to see Christ at work in it rather than fear it. Even food sacrificed to other gods was acceptable to eat because the One True God was present in every aspect of the sacrifice, even if those offering the sacrifice were unaware of it. Today we can biblically eat food offered to and blessed by Satan, knowing that God is present in the meal and greater than any false god that may lay claim to it. We can be at peace when the government asks us to wear masks and stay at home, knowing that God is present in and still bigger than any circumstance. We can smile knowingly at propaganda about global deep state takeovers, knowing that no power or principality could or would ever stand against an ethic of love and peace. We can grieve the loss of loved ones with a peace that passes all understanding, knowing that God travels with them beyond the veil. But only if we are able to trust in God’s goodness, that God truly is Love.
If we trust God completely, we can follow the lead Christ laid out in his beatitudes. So when government and medical advice says, “Wear a mask”, we can confidently comply even if we are suspicious of the motives, knowing that Love cannot be subjected to authority. We can have grace for those who have different points of view and extend a helping hand, no matter what another’s affiliation may be. We can be in the world, and yet not have our hearts and mind ruled by the fear that so often seeks to control it. We can let go of the fearmongering that is seeking to overtake us and destroy the peace that flows from the Love of Christ who dwells within. Do you remember what that peace feels like? Take a moment right now to reconnect. Church, it is time to put our proverbial money where our mouth is, and start trusting God with our financial future, our society’s future and our spiritual future. It’s time to let go of these petty distractions that have destroyed our witness to a needy world. If we cannot be at peace and show our friends and neighbours how to trust God now, why would they ever want to trust God at all?
Russell has a heart for community and reaching out to the marginalised and forgotten. He is getting to know the God of infinite goodness and is living a joy-filled life with his wife Belinda and three children in South-East Queensland, Australia.
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