I’ve received quite a bit of feedback on the quote I read last Sunday to close my message on Abram’s call. Some seem to assume it was something I wrote. To be clear, it was not. It is a response that C.S. Lewis gave to a question that was posited to him concerning how believers might live in the new atomic age. It was written in 1948. If you would like to read it for yourself, you can do so here: https://www.epiclesis.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Florence-Converse-and-C.S.-Lewis.pdf
As I tried to clarify on Sunday, Lewis’ quote, although pointing in many ways to our day in this COVID-19 crisis, is not an apples to apples comparison. The threat of an atomic attack on our nation does not directly correspond to a global pandemic. Lewis was not saying that the atomic bomb was not real, nor that the threat of an attack was irrelevant. Coronavirus is real, people do die from it, and precautions should be taken related to it. Although no one that has spoken to me about the closing of my message Sunday has been concerned about why I utilized Lewis’ words, I do want to be clear that it was not meant to say “buck up everyone and get over yourselves, coronavirus is not a big deal.”
With that being said, Lewis’ quote does remind us that, as Christ-followers, we should not live our lives in fear. He was standing on solid biblical ground. Both the Old and New Testaments encourage us to find our hope in God and to put fear aside. The only fear we are encouraged to indulge is the “fear” of God. Passages like Isaiah 41:10, Leviticus 25:17, and Proverbs 3:7 make this clear. Jesus reminds us that we should not fear those who can merely kill our bodies while exerting zero ability to harm beyond that, but to fear God, who controls both our current lives and our future lives beyond the grave. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that all believers can confidently say: “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear, what can man do to me?”
I reminded all of us at the beginning of this crisis in March that early Christians were known throughout the Roman Empire as those (at least some of them) who remained in cities where plagues, famines, and war had ravaged. There they stayed (or traveled to) in order to care for the most vulnerable. In fact, The Roman Emperor Julian, writing in the fourth century, lamented Christian charity because it demonstrated how feeble the Roman gods were. He said, “Atheism (i.e. the Christian faith) has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.” In other words, Christian demonstrations of love and self-sacrifice were making the pagans look bad!
America is different than the Roman Empire. We do not need Christians to remain in cities that have been abandoned by the populace due to famine or plague and care for the sick and dying. Nevertheless, our specific acts of love continue to demonstrate our commitment to Jesus Christ (John 13:34-35). That includes love for those outside the faith, for sure. However, Jesus specifically points to our love for one another as a clear sign to a watching world that God is real, that faith in Christ is reasonable, and that we are indeed disciples of Jesus Christ (in context, Jesus is speaking directly to the Twelve, but I do believe we can extrapolate from this that we should behave accordingly as his disciples today).
I promise I will not keep harping on COVID-19 and Christian unity. But one more time for the record. Let us love one another friends. Let our opinions on the pandemic, mask wearing, the function of the U.S. government, elections and demonstrations in the streets be just that…our opinions. We are right to have them. But let us never forget that we are Christ-followers first. Care for one another, love one another, offer grace and understanding to one another. Our witness to a watching world cannot be condemned if we do it the way Scripture teaches us to do it.
Grace and peace,