In the midst of the #coronavirus pandemic, and its continued spread in the United States, the debate is raging about which is going to end up being worse; the death toll from the virus or the economic repercussions from rising unemployment and social distancing practices.
It is in this context that I want to call disciples of Jesus, and in particular the pastors, shepherds, and leaders of his church, to rise up and point the way in faith and love. To be faithful guides, walking with people through this journey, not running away like hired hands.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep." (John 10:11-13)
As death tolls increase across the globe, unemployment rates skyrocket, and the (Western) economy possibly takes a downturn the likes of which has been unseen for a hundred years, we will need spiritual leaders who hold out that ancient blood stained banner that calls hearts and minds to something far greater. People are going to need in the coming weeks and months, perhaps more than ever, men and women who will trust in the sovereign grace and love of God, whose faith is proven genuine while suffering grief in all kinds and trials. I was nearly in tears last night as I considered the suffering going on throughout the world, and the likelihood of it continuing to increase, as God was calling me to remain faithful to him.
"These [trials] have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (1 Pet 1:7)
As fear, confusion, uncertainty, and panic run rampant, men and women are needed whose minds are filled with peace in the middle of chaos (Phil 4:7), whose hearts are free to give and love in the midst of intense suffering (Jn 8:36), whose lives are shining brightly in a darkness so opaque that God himself is revealed (Mat 5:16; 13:34; Lk 1:76-79; 2 Cor 4:6; Phil 2:15).
For some, we will be called upon to preside over more funerals than ever, perhaps not even being able to gather to tend to the deceased, as in Italy. For others, we will be called to not give way to fear but instead to show our children that we believe in Jesus and that he has in fact gone and prepared a place for us (Jn 14:1-4) and therefore our inheritance is kept in heaven where it can never spoil, perish, or fade and that we are shielded by God's power through faith (1 Pet 1:3-5). For all of us we are called to be ambassadors of our king, heralding a gospel message of eternal life, for since we know what it is to fear the Lord we try to persuade others.
"Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. ... For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." (1 Cor 5:11, 14-15)
In this season disciples, pastors, shepherds, teachers, evangelists, deacons, heralds, and leaders ... as in all other seasons ... let us be fully alert and sober minded as we set our hope on the grace to be brought to us when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming (1 Pet 1:13).