During this time of coronavirus pandemic, Christianity in America has stepped up to play its part. It’s stressed the need for the world to turn to Jesus, it’s prayed for a revival, and it’s put its boots on the ground to help those in need. However, despite all the good it’s done to positively reflect the name of Christ, I think we’re a far way from showing that we believe in a God who told us to loves others more than themselves. After all, when this is all over and life goes back to normal, what will the coronavirus aftermath say about the church?
We’ve already seen enough problems with the church during the pandemic. Look at all the churches who have insisted that they’ve continued to meet. They do it under the guise of “freedom of religion,” but the heart of it really is “elevation of self.” They have rights. they say, and they want to flaunt their rights to the world. They want to show “the man” that nobody can hold them back from worshiping the God that they love. And what happened because of their selfishness? People died. Literally. Because they insisted on meeting, because they wanted to flaunt their freedoms and cared more about themselves than others, members of their congregation and members of someone’s family died.
If there was a non-believer in that family, would that convince them to believe in a loving God? No. If anything, it will push them further from God.
Now there is a report that, in the aftermath of coronavirus, famine will sweep the world in biblical proportions. Worldwide hunger is already a huge problem, and coronavirus is only going to make it worse. Millions of people starve to death every year, but this year is going to set some unprecedented records.
The outside world sits back and says, “How can God exist when he allows this?” And they turn their back on God.
The church sits back and says, “Where is God in all this?” Theologians debate on the answer, but all the answers, in my opinion, are nonsense. Why? Because it’s the wrong question. When we are asking the wrong question, then it doesn’t matter what the answer is.
Before coronavirus came, there were thousands of churches across America that could be considered engineering and architectural wonders. The structures are massive, some even rival sports arenas. They have the newest and best amenities that technology can offer. Loads of money was in the bank, and they don’t skip a beat in spending it.
All while millions of people starve to death.
If the church gives anything to help those people, it’s leftovers. It’s almost laughable to think that they’d consider the piddly amount as “sacrificial.” Let’s face it—when the church talks about sacrificial giving, it’s talking about sacrificial giving to the church. Is the church somehow above sacrificial giving? The honest answer, and the biblical answer, is No. The church is required to trust in the Lord for their provisions just as much as the congregation is.
Instead of asking, “Where is God in all this?” we should be asking, “Where is the church in all this?”
The church is supposed to be the embodiment of Christ. We’re his ambassadors while he’s not on this earth. And when we ask “Where is God in all this?” we end up condemning ourselves.
In the 3rd century, Eusebius wrote,
All day long, some of them [the Christians] tended to the dying and to their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them. Others gathered together from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to them all.
Furthermore, Pagan Roman Emperor Julian wrote (when he was criticizing Christianity),
When it came about that the poor were neglected and overlooked by the [pagan] priests, then I think the [Christians] observed this fact and devoted themselves to philanthropy… [They] support not only their own poor, but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us.
Imagine if that was a negative comment about the church today!
So what changed between then and now? Why is the American church so different than the church of long ago? I think we can only speculate.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed about the problems, but that’s not a reason to do nothing. Jesus was surrounded by the poor, the needy, and the sick. Did he just throw his arms up in the air and say, “There are too many people with leprosy! What’s the point of healing some of them if I can’t heal all of them?”
It’s also easy to believe that the problems of the world aren’t our problems. I wonder if Jesus was ever tempted to think that our sins weren’t his problems.
The American church, in general, is a selfish group. We pray for a revival? But a revival implies fuller churches. More saved = more church attenders. Maybe to get the revival that we’re praying for, we need to give people a reason to be revived. We need to show Christ to the world by being Christ to the world, instead of just preaching Christ. If Christ lives in us, our lives should be lived out for him, too.
As long as we keep looking at ourselves and ignore the suffering world, why should anyone believe in a loving, caring, merciful God? How can Christianity be real to them when it’s not even real to us?
So What Can You Do?
Not everyone can help the same way. I recognize that. A believer who is struggling to make ends meet and feed their children can’t do the same things that a megachurch with millions sitting in the bank. However, there is no person and no church who gets a free pass to do absolutely nothing. So if you’re wondering what you, your small group, or your church can do, I’ve listed some suggestions below, not by order of importance, based on what will have the most direct impact. But if you don’t know where to start, read the suggestions backwards.
SERVE– Some may have the ability to physically go to the suffering world and help in-person. At the heart of it, world suffering is a people problem—it’s people who are sleeping on the streets, people who are digging through the trash for clothes, and people who are starving to death. People—not statistics—are made in the image of God, and they’re who struggle to live until tomorrow. So if at all possible, serve.
GIVE – if you’re an individual, give to your church. If you’re a church, give to the world. There are many groups out there that not only help with the spiritual needs of individuals, but the physical needs as well. James tells us that meeting the physical needs of people is essential to our own faith—it proclaims our faith to the world and stretches our own faith in the Lord (c.f. James 14-26). Some great organizations that are already accomplishing this are Samaritan’s Purse and Compassion International.
SPREAD THE WORD – I’m persuaded that a large group of us aren’t aware of the problems. Others of us know about the issues, but ignore them because we’re not sure what to do. But, almost everyone can spread awareness. Start with yourself—subscribe or follow people and companies who are on the front lines helping people. Then share posts on social media or blog about things you’ve learned. Furthermore, you can help create regular awareness within your own church by taking a little initiative. You might be surprised to find out that others in your church want to help, but don’t know how to do it alone. Together, you can make a bigger difference.
PRAY AND FAST – This, at the very least, is what everyone is capable of doing (unless your health prevents you from fasting), and it should be done regularly and consistently. Fasting is nearly a lost Christian discipline in America, which is a shame because it can have some amazing spiritual results. I put these two disciplines together because, while prayer can be done on its own, fasting should never be done without prayer. When we don’t even do this, we are telling ourselves that these problems are even too big for God. So I ask you: How big (or small) are you making God through your prayer and fasting?
The goal isn’t to do one and only one; but to do as many as you can, starting with what you’re able to do and working your way to do more. Nobody is expected to do everything, but everyone is expected to do something.