Catchy campaign slogans are not a recent development. During the 1920 presidential election Ohio senator Warren G. Harding struck a popular chord with his promise that, if he were elected, America would “return to normalcy.” Following the hardships brought on by the First World War, Americans longed for the peace and prosperity they remembered. The desire for “normalcy” swept Harding to a landslide victory.
Someone asked me recently when I thought things would return to normal. Of course, they were referring to the disruption triggered by the Covid 19 pandemic. I replied, “Never.” I did not intend to be discouraging. However, I genuinely believe that after the events of 2020 our daily lives will never be exactly as they were prior to the virus outbreak. Nor do I think they should be.
There are numerous lessons that our recent experiences should teach us. Among these are:
A lesson is liberty. While our church voluntarily suspended its services for several weeks out of concern for the health of our members and our testimony in the community, there are states that are currently banning regular church services. In these same states gambling casinos are operating, shoppers crowd aisle ways at stores, and airplanes fly at full capacity. In spite of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty, secular-minded authorities persist in prohibiting what God mandates – the assembling of His church. Until just days ago, San Francisco limited church building occupancy to a single person! Both the governor of New York and the mayor of New York City are threatening churches and synagogues with confiscation of their buildings if they do not cease gathering. Before the pandemic, many believed religious freedom and equal protection under the law were inviolable in America. Recent events have underscored the great truth that “eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.”
A lesson in depravity. We live in a fallen world. We have witnessed widespread rioting, looting, arson, violence, and governmental malfeasance, all in the name of justice and public safety. God designed government to restrain evil and enforce justice. When government permits crime, it is not furthering “social justice.” It is obstructing it. As well, the Bible teaches that those who rule over men must do so in the fear of God. (II Sam. 23:3) Those in authority are also under authority, and must themselves be restrained. This biblical truth is why the founders of our nation designed a system of checks and balances, and limited government. James Madison wrote, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary… In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” Sadly, of late, our government is doing neither one well.
A lesson in opportunity. For months now, I have been unable to make hospital calls and visit shut-ins. Our church’s summer outreach programs were crippled. Paul told us to “walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” (Col. 4:5) We cannot presume that opportunities to share the gospel and serve others are unlimited. And, of course, the lives lost to the virus remind us of the value and brevity of life. We must be wise stewards of the time God gives us.
Still another lesson is gratitude. Things we treasure have been taken from us. We hope they will be restored. Some things may never be. Loss should always inspire us to thank God for what we had and what we have.
I told the men at a recent pastor’s gathering that, as much as I dislike all the disruption, I believe our church is stronger spiritually than it was before the pandemic hit. I hope the virus and its negative impact vanishes soon. I also hope when it is over we pray more, cherish our fellowship more, give more, grow in grace, increase in our outreach, and never revert to exactly the way things were before.