Pressing times, thought unpleasant and and unpredictable, have a way of boiling us down to what we really care about. At some point, our theology will come into the conversation. When asked, there are many people who would claim they don't have a theology about any particular religion, but to gain that conclusion, I believe one must create some sort of opinion about God, creation, an afterlife, and/or what constitutes good and evil.
Because of COVID-19, Americans seem to be moving toward the same schedule. Finding a way to work from home will be our new norm until we receive the all-clear from the virus. As we are being boiled down to the basics, it might be time to dig into our own theology. We should consider what we'll be when all this is over. How well can we live while we aren't living our normal lives?
I'm sure that none of us have the same thought come to mind when we hear the term theology, but theology is simply what we believe about God. 2020 seems to be demanding that we visit that question. What's difficult about times of trouble is that we often center our theology around Why is this happening? Why would God allow this? Once the imagination takes over, we ask, Are we being punished? Maybe God isn't a good God after all. Why won't He just make this go away? This is a really tough place to begin digging into what we believe about our Creator. If that is your position as you read through this, I would ask that you consider that maybe the Creator of the universe might have a few more layers than what we are currently living through. If you love God, but maybe your faith is just small, please go back and read this: https://www.paigeonfaith.com/post/faith-resources-during-the-pandemic.
If you can, try to silence the carousel about the questions about today's problems and consider this: you are not only made by God but you are made for God. Whatever you're doing here on earth isn't for you, it's for Him. Isn't it disappointing to see things not serve their purpose? Personally, I hate to see things locked away unused for the sake of "maintaining their value." Call me weird, but I don't believe taking care of something means not using it. If I have a $2 million Aston Martin, I will vow to take care of it by not taking it off-roading, not by locking it in my garage. This is the great disappointment of many Christians. They believe in God and that Jesus paid for their sins, but they don't understand they were made by God and for God. We get confused just like the conservative owner of an Aston Martin who thinks the purpose of owning such an expensive car is to make sure it stays as expensive as it was the day he bought it. Leather seats, voice activated everything, the thing can practically do your taxes while brewing a latte and it never leaves home. From afar it's easy to think, How can a car this cool just sit in a garage all day for months and months!? But if YOU owned the Aston Martin, would you truly live life to the fullest in that car or would you succumb to the preservation route too? Would you all of the sudden not believe in yourself as a driver? Would you imagine a scratch or a car accident that insurance couldn't cover? Or would you just feel guilty about more miles on the odometer? All options lead to keeping the valuable thing unused.
Amidst COVID-19, the world has been positioned to consider life without the things we once believed to be our purpose. Professional athletes to teachers to teens working at the local coffee shop have all been stripped of their daily doings for a life of staying at home. I believe this too shall pass, but the world will be far from normal for a long time. What will people end up doing to get their organizations, finances, and income back on track? Will companies downsize and lay a bunch of people off? Will full-time people be forced to part-time or salary cuts? Will important government programs be cut leaving certain groups of people without support? Maybe some combo of all the above. I don't know what the worst of the worst is for you, but if it's all stripped away, what you believe about God is all you will be left with, especially if your daily job has sat in the seat of your purpose.
I am not going to spend any words telling you what to believe about God. There is so much of that already out there, and it's also not enough to build a spiritual foundation. Friends, we cannot go to church and ask a preacher to tell us what to think about God. Romans 10:17 says "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ." We can hear the message in church, podcasts, small groups, etc, but the MESSAGE has to come from the word. For most of my Christian walk, I have been so guilty of allowing a pastor to tell me what God's Word means. Not that a pastor would intentionally mislead a congregation, but between taking small snippets of the Bible and lacing them into a theme combined with my mood that Sunday along with my interpretation, there is a lot of room for error, confusion, and misguidance. I'm here to remind you that your theology is your responsibility. If you don't understand the Bible, it's on you to dig in. Our connection to other believers should be from a hunger for the daily bread of God's Word, not entering a house of worship expecting a religious leader to somehow get us closer to a Creator that we don't expect a relationship with. We sing worship songs calling Him the waymaker, miracle worker, and promise keeper, but what is our promise? What's our end of the deal? I can guarantee one thing: it's not staying locked up like an expensive car for fear of getting a scratch.
This starts with building YOUR OWN theology. Please note that you don't need to start a different theology. I pray your current church synchronizes with you well, but when it doesn't, is it going to be because the mission or the purpose has changed or because they switched the service times? Might sound stupid, but people walk away because of convenience more than they do conviction.
When I turned 31, I vowed to not ever let a pastor tell me what to believe again. Whether it was a sermon series or something in a Bible study, I wanted to find a way to validate what I was being taught. Here are some things that have helped me:
1. Be alone and undistracted
2. Pray before you read. One thing I specifically pray is that I can see myself in the characters God chose to carry out His will. These are not fairy tales, these were real people. He used regular, untrained, nervous, ill-equipped people because it was never about what they could do, it was about what He could do.
3. Read the whole chapter of the scripture that was being referenced (everyone loves Jeremiah 29:11, not many love Jeremiah 29:1-10)
4. Research the cultural climate of what's being written. Try to figure out what men, women, certain races, and leadership were expected to do.
5. Accept what you read about God. Once you've positioned yourself with 1-4, this is where your theology is built. If you stay dedicated, this is where the world's theology will be exposed. Psalm 119:10-11 says "With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." Again, I have been guilty of this, but we cannot pick the parts of God that we like because we are always going to pick the things that service our flesh. If it's up to me, I'm always going to pick grace and forgiveness. I'm never going to choose wrath, correction, or consequences. But God has those attributes! Not because He's mean or enjoys punishing, but because we cannot succumb to our own foolishness in front of the being that created us. God allows us to do a lot. His permissive will can sometimes allow some people to walk right off a cliff before they realize how far from Jesus they are. So when we see God rebuking some of His major players in the Bible, we have to accept that and respect that. Obedience and commitment is for our own sake.
My ultimate prayer is this: the quarantine would put us in a spiritual corner where we decide to take so much responsibility for our own theology, that God's Word both softens us and equips us to respond to this trying time (and all trying times to come) that makes us think above the what-ifs of today. The coronavirus will be an event that goes down in world history. It could also be the event in your history that forced you to the foot of the cross to see what a Savior really is and who you can be because of Him. It won't happening by listening to everyone else. It will happen by Jeremiah 29:13 "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart" and by doing your best to "present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." (2 Tim 2:15) If our hearts are hungry in this way, it will be amazing how different church, relationships, work, parenting, and paying bills are.
Last, I just want to say that we are so privileged to live in a country where we can freely and publicly read the Bible if we want to. There are hundreds of places all over this planet where even being caught with God's Word in our possession is a crime punishable by death. If the instruction manual from God to us can be in our hands, downloaded onto a phone, or even read aloud, then what are we doing believing it's up to someone else?
John 8:31 "So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,"