Every crisis has its jargon, and COVID has not disappointed. Social events are ‘superspreaders.’ Breathing, ‘aerosolization.’ Everyone who asks for your temperature and symptom history, suspect you are ‘asymptomatic,’ but positive. Our great longing is for ‘herd immunity.’ And in the place of batting averages and points per game, we pour over ‘rates of transmission.’ Everyone dies of COVID, but we all know they had ‘comorbidities.’ We are not really sure if we want to ask for an ‘antigen’ or an ‘antibody’ test. The calculus of ‘quarantine’ is more enigmatic than proving Fermat’s theorem. We ‘social distance’ in order to avoid the dread ‘second-wave’ lest we have to go into ‘isolation’ because we were ‘contact-traced.’ If only we had ‘PPE,’ maybe we would feel safer.
But how far can my ‘Personal Protective Equipment’ protect me and those I visit? Let’s face it. Isolation gowns hardly offer comprehensive coverage. Though admittedly, the dual effect of a total face shield and N95 mask does protect parishioners from every word I speak. No doubt, donning glove, gown, mask, and face shield will reduce ‘rates of transmission,’ but is it fool-proof? Absolutely not. When it comes to COVID there are no guarantees. As one hapless interviewee noted, “the virus is just gonna virus.”
We are vulnerable and we know it. Whether we deny the virus or hunker down, “the virus is just gonna virus.” As with every other uncertainty and danger in life, we are vulnerable. We do our best to protect and prepare, but in the end we do well to remember that “the mercy of the world is that you don’t know what’s going to happen.” Yet, it is often precisely that uncertainty that paralyzes us. And so, we circle the wagons, shut down, isolate and live in a cryogenic state. Wise King Solomon once noted, “he who builds a high gate invites destruction.” (Proverbs 17:19) Fear easily creates paralysis.
We see this in our spiritual lives as well. Christians have a Great Commission. We have one job, just one job — to make disciples of the nations. But fear of rejection, persecution, suffering, privation, and even inconvenience repeatedly derails us. Judgement from God is raining down on unbelievers all around us. Friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, and those we see every day are facing the righteous, eternal wrath of a Holy God. We have walked in their shoes. We were once in the same danger, but God showed mercy to us. He sent someone to share the gospel with us — someone who loved us, more than their own safety or comfort. What about us? Do we love others more than our own safety and comfort?
Sharing the gospel is frightening. It is dangerous. It can even be deadly. It is sweet, but it is also bitter. We find this in Revelation 10. Judgements unfold against those without the seal of the living God. But judgement alone will never bring men to repentance. John sees a vision directed to the church. He is instructed to take a little scroll and to eat it. Though sweet in the mouth, it is bitter in his stomach. And in this vision, we have a picture both of the nature of the gospel and our duty to proclaim it.
Like a lamp on a stand, the church shines the grace of God into a world that knows only the darkness of the fall. The truth sets men free. But first it makes them mad. It exposes their condition before applying the remedy. And to worldly men, this exposure is torment. They will never be grateful for this exposure until grace opens their eyes. They will hate the one who dares expose them. Sharing the gospel is a deadly, dangerous business. But it is a deadly, dangerous business that God calls us to take up. What PPE is there for us against the world’s hatred for the truth of the gospel?
In Revelation 11, John sees a second vision. A vision of the two witnesses. Witnesses who symbolize boldness and power. Witnesses who faithfully finish their testimony. And witnesses who meet abuse and death for their message. But their suffering is short-lived. Death is not the last word. The God who protected them in life, gives them eternal life and calls them home. And a world so eager to be rid of them, realizes too late the terror of a world without the gospel. Join us this week as we examine Revelation 11:1-14 and consider God’s protection and care for faithful witnesses.
We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm, outside on The Pavilion at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.