What the Church has Learned During Covid-19
Pr. P. T. Thomas
“Who has spoken and it came to pass under the Lord has commanded it”. Lam. 3:37
Nothing happens anywhere in the whole universe without the command of the Lord. It follows that even the devastating pandemic of Covid-19 has come as per the command of the Lord. God does not do anything without a specific divine purpose.
The Word of God makes it clear that the church of God is at the centre of God’s plan and purpose. Anything that has ever taken place, not only in the history of mankind, but in the history of the whole created universe is directly or indirectly connected with the formation and preparation of the church of God. “… the world or life or death or the present or the future–all are yours and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:22-23). So, even the pandemic of Covid-19 has come about with the specific divine purpose of teaching and transforming the church of God.
Learned or Should Have Learned?
Nevertheless, has the church of God learned the lesson God intended her to learn? The whole mankind the world over has learned many valuable lessons during Covid-19. But as the church of God has a very special place in the plan of God, He expects her to learn many more valuable lessons of spiritual importance than the general public has learned.
When God led the Israelites through the wilderness for forty years, He expected them to learn many truths which were apt to transform them to conform to the will of God (Deut. 8:2). But unfortunately they failed to learn what the Lord expected them to learn. All through the four decades they kept rebelling against God. Their stubborn nature and murmuring was so hard that God head to punish them. Once Moses told the Israelites: “You have been rebelling against the Lord from the day that I know you” (Deut. 9:24). God Himself has told: “…none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test there ten times and have not obeyed my voice” (Num. 14:22). Do we have an idea about the lessons God wants us to learn during these hard times? In the present context it seems more pertinent to ponder what the church should have learned, rather than what she has learned. Such a self-evaluation would benefit the church of God more.
Transiency of the Present Life
Covid-19 has made everyone aware of the fleeting nature of the present life. But the church should learn much more and correct herself. Considering spiritual ministry as a means of well-being in the present life has influenced the church in recent times. Unscrupulous ministries parading as specially anointed servants of God misled the believers into thinking that worldly riches are the standard of divine blessings. A tele-evangelist was reportedly heard saying: “First, let us deal with the crushing problems of the present life here, then try to think about the one to come’. Popular crowd pullers in evangelistic circles were silent about the problem of sin and judgment. They projected the miracle working Messiah in their preaching. Some did not even hesitate to state that the crucified Christ was a failure. This is just contrary to the message of the scriptures. Seeing the success of such fraudsters, even many innocent ministers got tempted to follow suit. It had become the trend of the time. These who tried to remind the believers that Christian life is the way of the cross and that trials and tribulations are inevitable in our life, were branded as advocates of ‘poverty gospel’ and ridiculed. Unless one is alive and healthy can the material prosperity be of any use to him? Now that the whole mankind stands shocked at the transitoriness of the present life, will the church turn away from worldliness? Did we learn the lesson that the so-called ‘prosperity gospel’ is an unbiblical farce?
Church is not an Edifice, but an Organism
Of late, local churches were competing with each other to build up larger and more imposing edifices. While sincere ministers in interior areas were struggling to pay their monthly rent ‘rich’ congregations in urban and suburban areas were pulling down cosy structures to erect imposing edifices to match their so called social status. Now that most church gatherings are held as virtual meetings or internet platforms, of what use are the cathedral like building? The church is not made up of bricks and concrete, but with the living stones of born again believers. Our attention was diverted from spiritually building up the members of the church to putting up higher and higher edifices. Taking care of the sheep and lambs in the flock of the church is the primary responsibility of pastors; not chairing the building committees. Did the church learn this great biblical lesson during the day of the present pandemic?
Needs and Desires
Man’s needs are very limited, but his desires have no end. During the days of the pandemic man could bridle his desires. As social gatherings are impossible, there is hardly any scope to show off one’s possessions. Needs primarily pertain to the body. They cannot be dispersed with for a moral life. But desires primarily relate to the soul. The Bible teaches us about the desires of the flesh and the desires of the spirit (Gal. 5:16-170. A child of God should not seek to gratify the desires of the flesh. He should distinguish between the desires of the flesh and that of the spirit. He should make every attempt to meet the desires of the spirit. The days of the pandemic have provided an opportunity to identify one’s needs, the desires of the flesh and the desires of the spirit. By God’s grace almost every need of everyone was met even during these hard days. We have learned to live without chasing our mad desires.
Desires of the flesh arise primarily when we compare our plight with that of others. When others have something which we don’t have, which we not need at all, then the flesh would start craving for it. It arises from the desire to excel others. It is against the spirit of humility. As social interaction is reduced to the minimum, such desires do not have much scope to raise their head. Modesty, humility, godliness and honoring each other are basic elements of Christian discipleship. Covid-19 has provided us with a golden opportunity to learn this lesson and cultivate such virtues. But have we learned this?
Church on the Boastful Pride of Life Our spiritual level had degenerated to such a level that even spiritual ministries were misused as opportunities to show off our material means and talents. Even in gospel meetings churches competed among themselves to prove their competence. Each one tried to excel the other, not in presenting Christ crucified, but in making the meet a spectacular event. Popular crowd pullers and those who resorted to gimmicks to amuse the masses were roped in to make the event grand and memorable with the result that the Word of the cross that give eternal life was eclipsed or ignored.
Even funeral services degenerated to the level of a show of the boastful pride of life. The care of wedding services was far more ridiculous and extravagant. The spirit of competition pervaded weddings too. Greedy event management groups fanned the fire of competition for their own advantage. As things were moving from bad to worse, God intervened and cast a curb on the show of our boastful pride of life. But have we learned this lesson?
The Ideas of Worship
Fast music and loud singing with sound modulations effecting mass ecstasy came to be misunderstood as Christian worship. Skilled musicians and talented singers who could move a crowd to frenzied ecstasy came to be called ‘worship leader’. In many cases they were not even born again people who did not hesitate to rush to our stage from a temple festival or a rave party. This deceptive misconception engineered by the devil was eroding the very basis of Christian spirituality. Our idea of worship was getting identified with the heathen concept of worship. The Bible teaches that true worship is one giving his whole life as a living sacrifice for the glory of God. Of course, the gathering of the saints and singing praises together is important in our spiritual growth. But worship is possible even when we can’t come together as a congregation, because our worship is not limited to the four walls of our church building. During these hard days of the pandemic God wants us to realize what true worship is. No restrictions or physical limitations can prevent the worship of a believer. Wherever we are, whatever our physical situation is, we can worship God by our whole life, which we have offered as a holy sacrifice for the glory of God. Whatever we do, many it be a pleasing aroma to God, who is glorified in and through our lives.
God in His omniscience has allowed this pandemic to overshadow the whole world with the intention of instructing and transforming His beloved church. God wants us to get renewed and reformed to be in tune with His will and purpose for us. May we not be stubborn and obstinate like the Israelites.