The new WatchOS has let me know that I typically wash my hands a few seconds less than I should. I hope it doesn’t report me to the government.
Revelation 14:12–13 (NRSV): 12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of Jesus.
13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.”
Centennial Carll Bro Block
Delphi, Indiana, USA
But while the devil is a tireless worker, “accus[ing our brothers] day and night before our God,” we know that his lies will ultimately prove ineffective. We know this because he is no match for Jesus Christ, the true witness, the one who tells us the truth about us by claiming us as God’s own. And because Christ speaks the truth, the Christian, too, is summoned to a vocation as courageous truth-teller. She does this first of all by bearing witness to the gospel, but also through a quiet passion for truth in everyday life. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exod. 20:16). This commandment of the law is also integral to the gospel. Whenever the Christian refuses to go along with the devil’s lies, she confirms her love both of the true witness and of the neighbor who suffers the burden of false witness. The “necessity” of lying is grounded in the structures of the old eon. But that eon is passing away. In a world where truth (Christ) is victorious, there is no reason not to speak the truth.Mangina, Joseph L. Revelation. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2010, p 155.
Fire Escape Shadows
Delphi, Indiana, USA
A church that complains of living in difficult times has understood neither the captivity of the world to the powers nor its own mandate. Difficult times are just the times the gospel is meant to address.Mangina, Joseph L. Revelation. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2010, p 136.
“There will be no more time,” says the angel. Yet far from causing the church to hunker down into a sectarian enclave waiting for the end, the gift of the gospel sends the church outward into the world of peoples, nations, languages, and kings. The mighty angel crying with a loud voice is a type of Christ’s prophetic office, and John’s eating of the scroll a sign of the church’s mission of bearing witness to the gospel, both in its life and its speech. And as the angel stands astride land and sea, so the gospel is truly a message without borders.Mangina, Joseph L. Revelation. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2010, p 133.
Throughout the 2000-year history of the Church of Jesus there have been continual trials. For the most part, these trials have to do with the church at odds with the prevailing culture.
In the early church the enemy was the culture of paganism that pervaded all of life. It was difficult for a Christian to totally separate from the culture, because there were trade associations and social conventions that were all centered on the worship of pagan gods. In many places the Christians were seen as atheists because they did not participate in the culture. Even the purchase of meat in the market was suspect, because of the likelihood that it was part of a sacrifice to a pagan god or to the emperor.
In the church of Christendom, the church held great power. The temptation was to use that power for the gain of the church. Those centuries were rife with abuses of church people in the service of the powers in the church.
We live in an age of post-Christendom. The church has lost its clout. The culture would like to shut the church down because we are narrow and exclusive.
Our form of trial is in dealing with this pressure. The question is all about how we maintain our witness for Jesus in the face of a culture that does not respect us, does not want us, and does not like us. The culture has taken away our voice.
People who have lived in times when the church was respected want to figure out how to get back the power we once had, and the respect. They tend to want to fight a political battle. Since the culture has lost its way on morality, these people want to legislate morality. Since culture doesn’t want us to be so narrow, these people become more narrow and more militant about it. Since the culture demands that we wear a mask, these people will not wear on no matter what.
These people are looking to political lords for salvation and have lost their first love.
It is very difficult to find a right answer to the culture, but I’m convinced that this response is the wrong one.
We need to focus on Jesus. We need to continue to obey him. We need to continue to witness to him. We need to learn to suffer these present trials and we must expect them to get worse. We must be among those who emerge from the trials having washed our robes in the blood of Jesus so they are made white.
Let us be in continual prayer for the church, that the God of heaven might strengthen us for the trials.
One surface narrative reveals the refusal to wear masks is because of individual freedom and rights. Who is benefitting from this narrative? Who pays the price? What is the more crucial issue?
“No one is going to tell me I have to wear a mask.”
“I live in America and I have freedom.”
While I do not deny that we have freedom, though systemically unequal, this is not the core issue. Civil liberty has been pulled in as the bottom line but it’s a smoke screen.
Claiming our personal rights in America keeps us from seeing a corrosive problem in our culture and in our own hearts. Whether we wear a mask is not about party alignment or civil liberty. It reveals our moral character. A refusal to cover our faces is not just about people taking a stand for their freedom. It’s that people value themselves and their comfort more than others. It’s about character and our desire for the well-being of others, especially the vulnerable population.
Delphi, Indiana, USA