Though the world has changed dramatically in the last few weeks, the call for Christians to be salt and light hasn't. That's one of the difficult things about our faith. The biblical instruction is clear enough: Here's what God is doing in the world, our call is to follow him and, in Christ, bear witness to Jesus by sharing our faith and doing good in his name. But those biblical instructions were given in a cultural context much different than our own.
In other words, translating between God's Word and God's world isn't easy. If we'd woken up this morning and seen an army of Philistines outside, well, good news, there's like 40 chapters in the Old Testament about what to do in case of Philistines. Instead, we woke up to another day of spiking infection and death numbers, many of us with friends and family members who are vulnerable or sick, and another day on lockdown.
And, of course, all of this seems overwhelming. What can I do? How can I help?
I want to suggest four questions that every one of us can and should answer, so that we can, as the sons of Issachar did, "understand the times" and "know what to do." But first, let me say something about the where before we get to the what.
God determined that you and I should be in this time and this place. Let's not ask what we can't do, but what we can do. Where has God placed you? In what family? What community? What church? Near which business and in touch with which charity?
So, first, what's good that we can celebrate and promote during this crisis? Obviously, the charitable works around us are worth our celebration and support. Soup kitchens and homeless shelters and others doing the hard work of victim care.
But there are also birthdays, anniversaries and milestones. These things are still a good part of our humanity together, and there are still ways to celebrate with others. And, of course, we can celebrate the good being done by doctors, nurses, first responders and other medical professionals on the frontlines of this epidemic.
Second, what is missing that we can contribute? At times like these, it might be easier to ask, What's not missing that we can't contribute?
In New York City, where the medical system is under severe stress, Samaritan's Purse answered this question by setting up a field hospital in Central Park. Other Christian groups and churches are operating clinics and testing people for infection. One BreakPoint listener wrote in to tell us that she's sewing surgical masks. I've read of groups providing meals to frontline medical personnel or homebound folks, and MIT engineers posted blueprints for building cheap ventilators, for free online.
Especially now, Christians have something people desperately need and many are missing: hope. Now of all times, we must be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks about the hope that is in us.
Third, what evil can we confront or stop? The obvious answer for health-care workers is the coronavirus itself, though we all have a role to play in stopping or at least slowing the spread of the virus. Physical distancing and other precautionary measures are a way of putting love of neighbor ahead of our own desires.
On a more immediate level, we can stop the cynicism and anger. We can stop from forwarding an unhelpful message or accusation on social media. We can stop pornography from coming into our homes while so many more people are online.
Finally, what is broken that we can restore? Among the brokenness exposed in our culture by this virus is loneliness and social isolation. Relational brokenness, in our families and beyond, is an epidemic far more reaching than COVID-19. As this pandemic continues, we'll see endless opportunities to help restore broken lives and broken livelihoods.
I know some of these ideas may seem too simple to be effective. But the problem is we often dismiss the good we can do, the missing we can contribute, the evil we can fight and the brokenness we can restore because of what we can't do. Let's not do that.
From BreakPoint, April 6, 2020; reprinted by permission of the Colson Center, www.breakpoint.org.