The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc. The virus itself is bad enough, but for most of us the havoc comes from what has been put in place to keep it from spreading. Jobs have been lost, social, religious and family gatherings are all on hold. We are supposed to just stay home. It feels like we have had enough. Boredom, restlessness, anxiety and depression are becoming our daily companions. Our personal desperation will likely continue to increase, as there is no clear-cut pathway yet revealed to ending this chapter of life. What do we do? As Christians, how do we manage the rules that hinder our worship? The over abundance of editorialized information? The isolation, the anxiety and the fear that drags on? Let’s take a few steps back and put all these things in order so we can have a plan and work that plan!
Easter Sunday is a widely celebrated holiday. It is a day that represents life. For Christians, it represents life in its highest form because it is about the resurrection of Jesus. It is far too easy to lose the deep meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice and victory in the commotion and fanfare of Easter eggs, the Easter Bunny and Easter chocolate. As Christians, we know Jesus’ resurrection was a world-changing experience, but was it a personal, life-changing experience for me? How does the fact of Jesus being in heaven again with God affect me every day? To trace the kind of changes his resurrection can have on us, we need to look at the kind of effect it had on some who were there and experienced it first-hand. What did they see? What did they change?
Jesus is our hero. His example, his teachings, his works and his faithfulness are absolutely legendary. They provide a flood of inspiration for anyone who would want it. To think of Jesus as being troubled in mind seems to be completely contrary to what we think of our Savior. After all, the book of Hebrews says he was "holy, innocent, undefiled and separated from sinners." How could he have anxiety? The fact is, there were three recorded instances in his life where he was troubled. Were these experiences a show of weakness or doubt? Did Jesus have some flaw we never talk about? No and no! What these experiences do show us is the amazing fortitude, courage and godliness of the man Christ Jesus.
Social distancing. Three months ago, if you heard that term you may have thought it was describing someone who was a loner or someone who swore off social media. Now we not only all know what it means, we feel its meaning and it is frightening. I was in the grocery store today, and on the floor of the line for self-checkout, there were tape lines six feet apart so shoppers could more easily avoid contact. The Coronavirus – COVID-19 - has arrived. It is potent, fearsome and sneaky. Because of its presence the entire world has been altered socially and economically in a matter of a few months. As Christians, what are we supposed to do with this pandemic? What should we know, how should we act and most importantly, is this virus connected to God’s plan?
As Christians, we often talk about the necessity of forgiveness. We need to be forgiven and to forgive others. When it comes to talking about mercy, we always seem to focus on God’s mercy. Rightly so. God’s mercy is a resounding theme throughout the entire Bible. His eternal wisdom and plan could not even exist unless His mercy was, is and will be in place. So, if mercy is such an important part of God’s plan, and Jesus came and mercifully gave his life for Adam’s sin and redeemed the world, what about me? How does mercy fit into my life? Am I a merciful Christian? What does mercy really mean, and how do I know how and when to use it?
Burnout is nasty. As we found out in Part I of our two-part series, it can demoralize and diminish the efforts and quality of care from medical professionals and first responders. But it doesn't stop there. Even though the rest of us may not have other’s lives in our hands, burnout is more than capable of continuing to ruin lives...if we let it. The good news about this ever-growing and worrisome phenomena is that it can be handled. For regular people who get overly inundated with the unrelenting pressures of work, family and social issues, there are answers. Or, if we find ourselves feeling like we are drowning under the weight of Christian responsibilities, there are answers. The really good news is these answers have both biblical and medical foundations!
It is a common saying that the two things you can count on in life are death and taxes. While that might be true, there is another thing lurking in the background of the lives of more and more people every day: BURNOUT. With all of the overstimulation a technology-based society produces, we are set up for burnout. With what seem like ever-increasing job demands, we are set up for burnout. With personal communications being instant, always available and on multiple platforms, we feel we need to respond instantly as well. This sets us up for – you guessed it – burnout. This is just what applies to us - the average, "go to work and make a living" person. Medical professionals, first responders, military men and women – all set up for this scary precedent! This is serious. What can we as Christians do to recognize, respond to and relieve this dangerous pattern in our lives and the lives of others?
…And they lived happily ever after! While this fairy tale ending makes us feel all warm and fuzzy, it doesn’t help us to prepare for reality. The fact is, marriage is hard. Having a bad marriage is much easier. Think about why. Two people make a promise to one another before God to be - for the rest of their lives - completely faithful to each other. Theoretically, we think this is not unreasonable because when we marry, the bonds of love are powerful. Then life happens. Stress, jobs, children, changes, finances, likes, dislikes, opinions, moods - all of the human things that life is made of show themselves. You wake up one day and that bond of love that once looked impervious has faded into the shadows of everyday experience.
There is no denying the New Testament - and actually the entire Bible - is all about Jesus. His sacrifice for humanity is proclaimed from Genesis to Revelation. He IS the key to the gospel. Having said this, the life and writings of the Apostle Paul dominate much of the New Testament. His experiences and teachings are pronounced, and in the eyes of many, go too far. Critics see the Apostle Paul as a combatant against the gospel of the kingdom Jesus taught. The basis for their criticism is the way Jesus reflected the role of the Jewish Law and the way that Paul essentially wrote it off. How do we manage this? Was Paul at odds with the core values and teaching of Jesus?