While the entire country and much of the world is in isolation due to COVID-19, it probably feels like your life is on hold. We are all still in the process of unwillingly adjusting to a life which involves a significant amount of time at home, unable to engage in many of our normal social and recreational activities. Our normal social life is nearly non-existent or it exists merely through seeing each other as pixels on a screen. Most of us are probably either on the edge of going stir crazy or passed it two weeks ago.
We are all finding different ways to get through this crisis, but we shouldn’t forget that getting through is not the only thing that matters, but also how we get to the end. Every Air Force aviator is required to attend survival school which includes a simulated prisoner of war camp designed to instruct each person on how to survive imprisonment by an enemy combatant. An important aspect of this training is not simply surviving until the end of the ordeal, but returning home with honor. The military is not merely concerned with living to the end of imprisonment, but the manner in which the individual conducted themselves. This is why the motto of every POW is “return with honor,” not just return.
There are many stories in the Bible of people who survived incredible ordeals which placed tremendous pressure on them. David was forced to be on the run for months in order to survive Saul’s threats on his life. Elijah lived in the wilderness after fleeing from Jezebel and the prophets of Baal. Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness away from human interaction all while being the recipient of temptations directly from Satan. Paul was imprisoned numerous times throughout the course of his ministry. In each of these cases, what mattered was not just endurance to the end, but the way in which they endured to the end. It did not matter that they were forced into these situations which required them to overcome unique challenges, they were still required to finish honorably.
Our normal life activities might be on hold and we are indeed facing unique challenges, but what will never be on hold is the necessity for us to live according to God’s Word. National emergencies, pandemics, disasters or other crisis are not legitimate excuses for us to abandon our obedience to Christ or act in a way unbecoming of a Christian. Jesus made it clear during His earthly ministry that it is those who “obey my commandments” (John 6) who demonstrate their love to Him. Would we say our love for Christ should be suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic? If anything, we are most likely depending even more on Christ during this time. We are turning to God in prayer to ask for patience, strength and endurance, but are we also loving Christ through obedience? Do we unintentionally view love for Christ as only being manifested through prayer (petitioning God when we need something) or is it also through faithful obedience?
During COVID-19, people are finding ways to survive our current situation. Based on the recent data, there has been a significant increase in video streaming, online gaming, alcohol consumption, pornography viewing and other online related activities. The world is finding different ways to cope in the midst of this crisis, looking for ways to survive until we return to normal. As Christians our calling is not just to return, but to return with honor. Our calling is as new creations in Christ who are to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Rom 12:2). It means that in any circumstance, crisis or not, we are not to be given to “drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy” (Rom 13:13). Instead, we are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:14). Paul warns the church at Thessalonica about the danger of laziness and idleness which can lead to sinful behavior (2 Thess 3:11); a danger also mentioned several places in Proverbs. We should be intentional about being diligent in using our abilities for God’s glory, not squandering the time He has given us.
At some point in the near future, life will return back to normal. The question is not simply will you return, but how will your return? Will it be a return with honor, where you look back with satisfaction in knowing your life, even in the midst of a crisis, was still focused on giving glory to God in your thoughts and action? Or will it be one surrounded by regret? Will the future stories of your survival through this crisis be one worth telling or one worth burying? Our love for Christ is revealed through obedience to His commands and the reflection of this renewed heart and mind regardless of the circumstances. As those who represent the Bride of Christ, we are called to humbly submit in obedience, knowing He is “with us always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20).