April 22, 2020

Dear CrossWay Family,

With the “Safer-at-Home” orders extended and the immediate future uncertain it is going to be easy for us in these coming weeks to grow impatient or worried or even angry. I’m finding that this situation is testing us all in one way or another. Some are dealing with loneliness. Some are dealing with fatigue.  Some are dealing with discouragement. Some are dealing with temptations in increased ways. Some are dealing with job reduction or loss. Some are dealing with the sadness of missing graduations and spring sports and friends. All of us, I’m pretty sure, are dealing with frustration at some level. We are all discovering there are some bright sides to all this but there is no doubt that this ongoing situation is testing us all in one way or another. And what can add to the challenge is when there are differences of perspective and opinion on decisions being made and how things are being handled. This presents a temptation for us all.

I’m really glad the Bible talks about times like this. It’s one of the things I appreciate most about God’s Word—its realism. Among the many things the Bible says about times of testing there are two that I want to focus on here.

First, the Bible talks about times of testing as producing really good things in us. James has the nerve to say, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:3-4). That catches my interest. Or, I think about what Paul says in Romans 5—“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (vv. 3-4) which are things I really want to characterize my life. And I’d love for endurance, character, and hope to characterize our church as well.

So, times of testing, like what we are in right now, produce good things in us. Hasn’t God promised as much?  In all things God is working for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). I know we can reference that verse a lot but it still means what it says.

There is a second thing the Bible says about testing that is good for us to remember. Times of testing call for the exercise of specific Christian virtues. And these virtues can be especially needed when the differences of opinion I mentioned earlier arise. I’m thinking of specifically Christ-like virtues like kindness (I Corinthians 13:4), and forbearance (Ephesians 4:2), and courtesy (Titus 3:2), and self-restraint (Proverbs 18:2 and Titus 3:2 again), and honor (I Peter 2:17). These virtues need to be directed toward our governing officials, whether we voted for them or not. But I am especially eager that these virtues be directed toward one another in our church family.

One of the things I love about real Christianity is that it is endlessly interesting. There are few formulas.  Living the Christian life calls for the exercise of wisdom and virtue in the moment. So let us pursue wisdom and virtue and let us pursue them on purpose, and with our whole hearts. We will need to do this in our interactions with each other but, I think we all know, the real battle is in our hearts. So let us not indulge in rancor in our hearts and then try to have a pleasing exterior. This is a time to diligently guard our hearts! We want to be very careful because we all know that our natures are such that it is very difficult for there to be an experience of disagreement without some strain being introduced into relationship. Even if we are not of one mind on everything we must still be of one heart. Our identity in Christ and our unity as brothers and sisters is a greater reality than our position relative to some governmental decision. We may, and do, have differing opinions on things. But there is, for Christians, something that supersedes that reality, which is so counter to a culture that elevates personal rights above just about everything. Jesus, and our life in him, is our true bond of unity.

So let us guard our hearts, our thoughts, and our speech. Let us be particularly careful with mediated conversation where there is so much potential for careless and divisive words.
One more thing. Let me encourage you to have a good measure of patience and understanding for those making decisions. With so many different voices and so much data, can you imagine how difficult a time this must be for every state governor to know how long is long enough? Even when we disagree with a decision we are called to honor those in authority. And, the Bible calls us to pray for them. More than ever, let’s do that. And let’s continue to keep our eyes open for opportunities to do good to those around us.

With deep gratitude for the goodness of God toward us,

Pastor Mike (for the pastors and elders)

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