An open letter to evangelicals about life with out self throughout this trade pandemic

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During this pandemic, another virus is hiding that affects our ecclesial communities, countries and the world. It neither increases body temperature nor causes shortness of breath. it does not affect the ability to taste or smell. It cannot be recognized by a nose swab or detected by measuring the temperature. Nor can you be cured of it by therapeutic medication, resuscitated by a ventilator from taking it over, or protected from it by a vaccine.

This virus secretly moves through our personal and community systems, not only in times of crisis, but also in the best of times. In some circumstances, it may not only be considered normal and natural, but also desirable.

And what kind of virus is it? Self-interest.

Not surprisingly, in times of public terror when we are irritated by the crisis, overwhelmed by fear, and frozen by fear, “me first” becomes our deafening mantra. Neighbors say it. Political leaders say so. And I say it in an understandable reflex.

Self-interest is a strong cocktail of personal, family, business and national tendencies. It is an obvious human instinct, be it an adult toilet paper, a politician who refuses to export therapies and devices related to viruses, or a pastor who proudly defies his government's request not to provide public services.

"I first" started when we were infants. Our overwhelming instinct was about yourself: comfort, warmth, food, attention. As we grow through childhood and adolescence, we should come to a point in life where our personal needs, interests and amenities are replaced by a differentness, an ability to recognize that life is not just about ourselves.

It's trial period

Pastors, let us have no illusions: in this time of global fear and need we are being tested. We are seen for our actions and judged for our generosity. We are not interpreted by our words, but how we move in our community, how the love of Jesus manifests when we interact with our leaders. There is no hiding place today. We may be confiscated, but when we show up and show our faces in public, the gospel is on trial.

The difficult question we could ask is, "How will we pass the test?" How can we help others do what identifies what we believe in?

Our actions are seen. Our identity is noticed. It is stuck over the doors of our churches like a sticker as soon as we can meet again. How we deal with our own needs and those of others will determine our testimony of Jesus. The way we live now will be remembered by our children and grandchildren and will give a clear picture of what it means to follow Jesus.

Yes, a vaccine is found for COVID-19. Therapies will weaken his strength. The infectious spread is manipulated by removal. But what will be the test for the church of Jesus Christ, both during and after this virus?

The test is how our beliefs fit our care for people. Our view of theology before or after the millennium does not make this difficult. We are not asked whether we are closer to Calvin or Wesley in our theology. I doubt anyone will wonder if Glossolalia occurs at or after the baptism of the ghost.

Jesus said the test:

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me, I needed clothes and you dressed me, I was sick and you got yourself looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. (Matt. 25: 35-36)

How the early church reacted

The early church, hit by the epidemic in the middle of the 3rd century, became a force in the treatment of the sick and the dying, a public narrative of the gospel. Christians were runaways in their culture, despised on many sides. But when the disease claimed up to a third of the population, her testimony ushered in a new era of testimony.

Bishop Dionysius wrote:

Regardless of the danger, they took responsibility for the sick, took care of all their needs and served them in Christ, and with them they left this life happily; because they were infected with diseases by others, drew the illness of their neighbors and happily accepted their pain. "(1)

The gospel provides a thoughtful framework for human life. For the many questions of life, Jesus not only gives answers, but is in itself the answer to the last questions.

An Orthodox bishop in Europe during World War II, troubled by the seductive messages from Hitler and Stalin, said, "If there is confusion, help children." What did he mean?

Regardless of confusion, misinformation, or contest narratives, he said, "Do good." We never have to ask ourselves what we should do if we know that Jesus' call is simple and straightforward: "Dear God and dear neighbor."

The world transcribes our testimony. Acts will add a chapter that describes how we served as evangelicals during the pandemic.

In our summer church camp, a banner adorned the platform of our worship center with the words of Jesus: "This is how everyone should know that you are my disciples if you love each other."

Let me suggest three questions to shape our daily life:

1. What does it include on my list to help others?

2. What is my personal income for others this month?

3. What inclusions do I have in prayer beyond family, friends and church?

I had a paper route in elementary school and there I met a World War I veteran. I liked to stop while delivering papers and listen to his war stories. One I remember like this:

One day a Salvation Army volunteer came, splashed with mud and splashed with the blood of comrades killed, offering new socks. For me this was a godsend. But with one difference. While others came by and distributed needed items, there was always a price involved. To my surprise, when I asked the volunteer about the price, he said it was a gift. Free.

You have passed the test, a witness of Jesus of Nazareth.

Brian C. Stiller is a global ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance.

(1) Rodney Stark, 1997, The Rise of Christianity, HarperCollins: Princeton NJ, see Chap. 4th

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