The headlines about how many people are getting COVID have been disconcerting as we read about setting daily records of the number of positive cases. One Wall Street Journal headline today reads, “Unable to Get Covid-19 Tests, Americans Carry On, Go to Work, Get on Flights.” That headline suggests to me that the number of daily cases will continue to break records because people are weary of the pandemic and are choosing to resume life as normal regardless.
The last 22 months have been tough. At this point we don’t know when a Greek letter of the alphabet combined with Covid-19 will be a thing of the past. (I never knew how helpful it would be taking Koine Greek in college and Seminary.) Yet, despite how it dominates the news and people’s conversations, despite how serious Covid can be, despite all the disruptions and losses since March 2020, the pandemic is not the most unbelievable or overwhelming news ever to be heard. As we approach year three of the pandemic, the most incredible news ever is: Jesus died for us and is ALIVE!
As Christ followers, we don’t want to ever minimize people’s hurts and losses. Or become flippant about tragedies or heartaches. What we want to do is keep perspective. And in our world today THAT is a challenge. So many people seem to be jumping to extremes and embracing conspiracy theories. There is a lot of fear and anxiety in our world right now.
In the midst of all that is happening, how do we keep hope when the pandemic and extreme reactions seem to keep winning? I think part of the answer is by keeping things in perspective and not losing our focus.
At the risk of offending my Greek professor, I recently took some liberties with the translation of Matthew 16:18. This was done during and for my personal devotion time, so perhaps Dr. Shoot will cut me some slack.
“I will build my church, and the pandemic and crazy conspiracy theories will not overcome it.” Revised Talley Version.
You probably recall that these words from Jesus – minus the liberties I took – were spoken by Jesus after he asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?” Peter insightfully responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16 NIV).
Jesus is the “Christ, the Son of the living God” even when a pandemic rages, when conspiracy theories abound, and when politics is incredibly divisive!
Here’s the part that is especially encouraging for me as a pastor and church leader. Because he is “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” he will build his church and nothing, not even the pit of hell, shall defeat it.
I BELIEVE this. I’ve built my life and ministry on this truth… this perspective. I cling to it when the world seems to be falling apart around me, when people panic, when things are uncertain, when there are conflicting news reports, when some people’s behavior gets bizarre, when people are angry and critical, and when there is a lot of uncertainty to contend with.
I think that as Christians we have to address real life concerns and issues. So please don’t think I’m being spiritually flippant or casual about crisis. I’m not offering a spiritual platitude that suggests my head is in the sand. Instead, I’m endeavoring to keep perspective. I’m endeavoring to see all aspects of life through a Christological perspective. Jesus is still alive today! He still reigns. Even though pastors and churches have had a rough 22 months, HE will build HIS church, and NOTHING shall overcome it!
At times I get so weary of this pandemic, people’s reactions to it, politics, and the chaos of our times. These tempt us to feel like everything is like a cold, dark winter day and things will never change. So I have to remind myself that the Son is shining brightly. That refreshes my perspective. It helps me deal with the stresses and challenges of everyday life with a deep sense of hope and peace.
Losing hope and peace puts a person in a most precarious situation. Losing them is overwhelming and defeating. Fortunately, hope and peace are not dependent on circumstances, but on the presence of the living Christ. When He is present in us, He can infuse hope and peace into us that is more powerful than anything this world can hurl at us.
As we begin a new year, hold in your heart the truth of the interaction between Peter and Jesus in Matthew 16. Let it breathe hope and peace into you. Let it refresh your perspective. Let it motivate you to rise above life’s heartaches, trials, problems, challenges, and stresses so that the Christ can shine in you and through you. Let Him give us hope and peace, and may we generously share it with others.