“He broke my house!” shouted the child, shattering the peace and looking desperately for me to right the wrong done to him, rivulets of tears glistening his distorted face. “See! He kicked over the chair! He always spoils everything!”
“No, I didn’t. He did it himself when I was straightening the chair, and he pulled the blanket, so it came off and pulled the chair over. He’s just trying to get me into trouble again!”, responded the older child, also crying, and equally adamant.
Each had to find blame for their shattered world. Each had to grasp at evidence to support their claim to being right. And, it didn’t matter what efforts I made to show that fault lay with both, both were just as vehement, just as upset at the other, just as convinced that justice was on their own side, and justice needed to be met upon his brother.
So common, isn’t it? And it’s not always children that play out this scenario.
Just look at what an interruption to the status quo a tiny virus labelled COVID-19 has imposed upon the world we knew.
I remember in those early days seeing this catastrophe as the finger of God and marvelling at how quickly God can bring this arrogant world to its knees. Is this a softening up of the world for things to come?
Like dye in water the virus dispersed across the global village with ease producing horrendous statistics and evoking images of bodies lying in the streets in some countries, ambulances grid-locked at hospitals in other countries, stacks of giant refrigerated containers storing bodies, body bags stacked up in stadiums, and mass graves in yet other countries, feeding fear.
With wave after wave, mutation after mutation, the troubles increased. Relentless lockdowns. Domestic violence. Long COVID. Thousands stuck in other countries unable to get home. Cancelled weddings. Phoned goodbyes. Family-less funerals. Job losses, business collapses, stretched health systems, and over 150,000 health workers worldwide dead. Cracks appeared in the resilience of people, families, and nations.
Finally—I mean, it seemed like forever, but it was in less than a year—the vaccine. Oh, the vaccines—the “panacea” governments and nations were hanging out for. Then started the squabbling. The E U family fought and finger-pointed among themselves about the fairness of distribution. That finger also pointed at the self-interest of the developed nations, who gave no consideration to the developing nations. They even wildly pointed at each other for introducing the virus. Really, the families of the earth only see from their own point of view like those children building their playhouse.
Conspiracy theories abound, and downright lies promulgated by those who know better but use misinformation to their own advantage no matter the damage it causes others. Even Christians have exploited the pandemic, and playing on people’s fears claim that COVID vaccines are “the mark of the beast” of Revelation devised by a cabal of manipulators under the power of the devil, thus consigning the litany of previous versions of this “mark” such as Bankcard and barcodes to the trashcan of disuse and forgetfulness, albeit an archive of evidence of their own sorry superstitious and corrupt minds.
Now we have the Omicron variant sending governments and experts and populations into spasms of fear and speculation. How many more mutations and boosters and masks and social distancing and lockdowns and government announcements and expert opinions and scientific solutions? People are tired of COVID. People are frustrated that they can’t get their lives back to where they were before. People are angry that their rights have been denied. People are indignant at being told what to do. So, they point fingers, blame the government, blame the experts, blame the pharmaceutical companies, the vaccinated, the unvaccinated, the maskers, the non-maskers, or the Jews. “You broke my house!” they cry…
But it isn’t just a crisis for the world. It seems that the Father has intended this to be a trial for His ecclesia as well.
While we have the Truth, a hope, and the guidance of the Word of God, we are seeing and hearing about brothers and sisters around the world caught up in the same issues and in the same spirit we’re witnessing in the world. Brothers and sisters argue about mask wearing, vaccination, restriction of rights, being told what to do. Respected brothers and sisters are caught up with non-biblical conspiracy theories and promulgating the lies and dubious “reports” of those who have an axe to grind. Some have taken to publicly expressing these things on social media. Some have joined with unbelievers to protest their rights. Some openly character-assassinate government leaders; some have declared that opponents deserve to die—such a spirit and language ought not enter the mind let alone come off the tongue of one who follows Christ. I hear of divided ecclesias; brothers and sisters demanding their rights and demanding that others comply with their rights, because right is on their side. Oh, how much like those squabbling children—and the world—we can be!
All of a sudden, ecclesial life is all about vaccination and masks, statistics and updates, government advisories and mandates, and them and us. And brethren are getting heated in an un-Christlike manner about these things. I mean, how could any become so blinded that they feel compelled to join with unrighteousness, with darkness, with Belial, to protest publicly against the government—something we as a community don’t do for solid biblical reasons. How could we become so distracted from the things we’ve been called to!
The virus and its consequences have been an interruption to our lives, too. Like Job, when the pressure is on, when our previous lifestyle is interrupted, when we are under the pump and being accused, or insinuations made about us, we feel besieged, and rise to our own defence. No one likes unfairness. And, like Job, we end up justifying ourselves and not the God we thought we were honouring.
While these issues within the Brotherhood are not yet “pandemic” we need to stop and refocus.
How fast can building our house together become fraught with division, accusation, self-justification. Just as God knew how to touch Job and bring out in him not only his faithfulness but also his weaknesses—weaknesses that Job didn’t realise he had—so God has touched us. And like Job’s three friends, the world has caught us up in arguments that distract us from the Truth, and bring out in us our true values, our true faith, our true love—Self.
While we are claiming the higher ground — “I am of Pro-Vax”, and, “I am of Anti-Vax”, or, “I am of Pro-Mask”, and “I am of No-Mask”—are we not yet carnal and walking according to man (1 Cor.3:1–4)? Are we not like squabbling children incapable of feeding upon the meat of God’s Word, but are babes needing the milk of first principles?
When such contentions occur, we end up in an ever-intensifying polarisation spiral. As social scientists have commented about how this phenomenon occurs within societies, particularly aided by social media:
“The polarization spiral, which is fed and accelerated by social media, is making extremists on both right and left more extreme, more powerful, and more intimidating. Both sides feed off of each other. Both sides are essential for a polarization spiral. And that means that neither side can win by attacking or humiliating the other side. Such tactics only serve to energize the other side.” (Jonathan Haidt, Greg Lukianoff)1
We can see why Paul constantly exhorted Timothy to walk away from foolish controversies that have nothing to do with the Bible and saving Truth:
- “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith.” (1 Tim 1:4)
- “But refuse profane and old wives fables” (1 Tim. 4: 8)
- “… charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.” (2 Tim. 2:14)
- “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” (2 Tim. 2:16)
- “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.” (2 Tim. 2:23)
It may be hard to believe, but there is no command in the Bible to either vaccinate or not to vaccinate.2 It is unequivocal. Such things can fast become foolish and unlearned questions, even profane and vain babblings. Certainly, conspiracy theories have no place in the Bible. The trouble is, these issues dominate and become to the protagonists what life and the Truth is all about. They are not.
Paul concludes after a series of these appeals in 2 Timothy,
“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Tim.2: 24–26).
Paul wants to stop polarisation spirals. He advises that the best way is to sit down quietly with the brother or sister so caught up in such wrangling and let the Word of God do the teaching, and hopefully, the erring saint may see.
This is a test alright. We, too, are being exposed for who we are. But it’s not a test of the doctrines of the Truth. It’s a test of our faith in the most fundamental of all commandments:
“Thou shalt love the Lord Thy God with all thy heart, and the second like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matt.22:39)
Paul warned the Galatians, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Gal. 5:13–14). In the same place, Paul lists the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit. It’s interesting that nine of the seventeen works of the flesh have to do with contention between people (Gal. 5:19–21), of which “they that do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God”. But in the fruit of the spirit, all eight items are summed up in “love” and are each required for our dealings with one another (Gal. 5:22–23).
As for the first commandment, we are to Love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Luke 10:27). We should be consumed with God; there is no room for anything else. Love of God and our neighbour leaves no room for being consumed by COVID.
We are being caught up and swept along in a tide of obsession with COVID, and no wonder, for we’re being fed it constantly. It’s being imposed upon us by governments and people who are at their wits’ end. We must not allow our attention, though, to drift from God to self-centred and self-preserving anxiety.
If, as we believe, God has brought this upon the world, then let our focus remain on God and on our responsibilities to one another. Sure, we need to comply with government regulations (Rom.13), but “let our citizenship be as it becometh the gospel of Christ … that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; and in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of [its] destruction, but to you of salvation, and that of God” (Phil.1:27–28). After all, it’s just a makeshift house that God is preparing for destruction.