This Is the ONE Thing
It’s time to put away childish things. Really, it is.
And I have to tell you, so far in this pandemic, I’ve been terribly disappointed in the American church.
Now, understand that I’m an optimist; and when all of this started unfolding, I was thinking to myself, “This is going to be our moment! When the world is afraid, when people’s lives are threatened, when economies are shutting down, the churches will be the places of hope, right? Where people live, act, think, and speak differently?”
But I didn’t hear or see much of that. Instead, childish things have headlined the conversations among evangelicals:
- When are we going to get back to normal around here?
- How long will this set back our building program?
- When will my Bible study group be starting up again?
- Is Pastor really going to make us wear masks while we sing?
Meanwhile, the whole world was coming unglued and looking for answers. Did they find them in the church? Are they finding them now?
Say No to Normal
I don’t know about you, but I’m convinced that the old normal is gone. It’s dead. And to me, that’s a good thing. Think about it—the normal we had grown accustomed to wasn’t reaching our neighborhoods for Christ or transforming our culture. It was barely keeping our own children in interested in the faith!
And then, when this crisis happened, it seemed like a way to reset. A way out of the usual, predictable experience of church life, and into something new.
Are we going to go back? Or will we embrace this new opportunity?
At Life Action, we’ve been talking quite a bit about the fact that Jesus is coming again. That’s the story that should be animating our conversations and motivating our passions.
Do we have to meet in small groups instead of large ones? Jesus is coming again!
Do we have to wear masks to keep vulnerable people safe? Jesus is coming again!
What if my church wants me to wear a mask and I don’t believe it will help? Jesus is coming again!
What if things get politicized and we aren’t sure who in culture to believe? Jesus is coming again!
Our job is to get people ready for JESUS COMING AGAIN. Why would we be depressed? Why would we divide along party lines? Why would we get upset about little pieces of cloth on our faces? This is our time, this is our moment, this is our day—to proclaim and celebrate that there’s hope, there’s love, there’s a future with Jesus!
Sure, our norms have been disrupted. Some things are cancelled, others are changed. But you know what? As a servant of God, I am responsible to wake up each morning and say, “Lord, today I’m Your servant. What can I do? Who can I love? Where can I go, with whatever time I have left?”
So we made a decision in our ministry, and I want to challenge you to consider making the same decision in your own life. We’re not going to sit around and whine. We’re not going to feel sorry about things changing, cancelling, going virtual, or even necessitating wearing masks. We’ll do what we have to do in this world but not get carried away with any of it. We have a mission that goes beyond “childish things” and sour attitudes.
Jesus is coming again!
We’re not going to moan about discomforts and inconveniences; we’re God’s church, after all! It’s our moment, right now, to put our lives into action for Christ. That’s what we are called to do, especially in tough times, is it not?
We’ll adjust. We’ll adapt. We’ll be flexible. We’ll prayerfully change what we have to change. But we’re going to keep moving forward and loving people no matter what happens—because that is our job.
The ONE Thing
When Jesus was praying for His disciples—His friends—He said:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world” (John 17:20-24 niv).
You do realize that this is Jesus’ prayer for you, and for all of us today, right? We are the “those who will believe in me through their [the disciples’] message.” Right now, in this time of pandemic and uncertainty, this word is for us. It’s the one thing Jesus wants.
Here’s the roadmap I see among His words:
For Us to Live As ONE with Each Other
Jesus said it multiple times in those verses. Do you think this might be a big deal to Him?
My observation, frankly, is that in America we don’t know how to be “one” anymore. Not in our country, and not in our churches. Think about it—even coronavirus didn’t unite us! Our carnality has robbed us of any ability to work together. Instead, I see an arrogance among the people of God today.
That’s right, I said it.
Do you realize that God never said He’d oppose the people who believe differently about reformed theology or women’s leadership, about spiritual
gifts or ecclesiology? But He did say He’d oppose the proud. Could that be you?
I look at it this way. If we can believe together that Jesus is Lord, that the Bible is true, and that Jesus is coming again, how can we not have unity together?
Yet division is everywhere, even about “childish things.” And it’s time for that to change.
I think masks are a powerful example of this. Are we really prepared to forfeit our ministry and our witness over little pieces of cloth?
Humility is where we need to begin recovering our unity. We need to give grace to each other, to stop trying to prove our point; we need to choose to agree on what matters most.
That’s the bigger picture. It’s not about you, or about me.
For Us to Live As ONE with Jesus
Throughout John 17, Jesus repeated this again and again—that we are to be in Him, that He wants us to be where He is. If you want to live as one with Christ, you have to say what He says, go where He goes, do what He does.
That’s the bigger picture. It’s not about you, or about me. It’s not about our opinions. It’s about the real, eternal kind of life that is summarized in our having a relationship with God Himself! (See John 17:3.)
For Us to Live On ONE Mission, Together
Jesus wants us to be ONE so that the world will know and believe. Our love for each other, our unity of heart and spirit—that’s what it’s all about. Jesus came here to seek and save the lost; then He handed that mission to us to share. Are we doing it? Are we being faithful to it?
I like to summarize our mission in the world this way: It’s the Great Commission lived through the Great Commandment. That is, it’s making disciples as we wholeheartedly love God and our neighbors. That’s what we’re here to do.
It’s time to put away the childish things—the distractions, the peripheral disagreements. They won’t matter in a thousand years, and they don’t actually matter much right now either.
When the pandemic is over, I think the church will be smaller than it has been in generations. So for those of us who remain, will we just go back to buildings and Bible studies? Or are we ready to change? To seize our moment?
Are we ready to do the ONE thing?