Reflections On Our Times

Reflections On Our Times
3 May 2020

A Post-COVID-19 Vision for Our World

Learning a lesson from Job’s friends, this seems like a time to say very little in light of the awful levels of pain, suffering and loss, death and uncertainty that the world is facing – hence the brevity of my reflections.

In our vulnerability and weakness, the Triune God invites us to lament.

He calls us to worship, to pray and to serve. 

For 2000 years churches have done all that: 

  • • They have prayed – assembling in whatever way has been possible to do so.
  • • They have modelled sacrificial service to their communities and especially to the marginalised and most vulnerable – because, as so often happens in this messed-up world, those who were already most vulnerable suffer even more in crises.

Rodney Stark, in his 1996 book The Rise of Christianity draws attention to the ways in which early Christians in Europe cared for the sick and dying in times of plague – with the twin results that some who had been dying lived and that others were drawn to the Jesus who had inspired such love for the sick.

As we weep and worship, pray and serve, we have an opportunity to reimagine the post-COVID-19 world. 

So, amidst the lament and the appropriate silence, the church has an opportunity to do what Jesus’s people are called to do at all times and in all places – namely, to draw near to God and to make him known in deed as well as in word.

As we weep and worship, pray and serve, we also have an opportunity to reimagine the post-COVID-19 world. 

Do we really want to go back to the way things were? Might this awful stage of history be an opportunity for the church to be early adopters of positive change?

  • • Could churches take a lead in reimagining a more just world and developing socio-economic relationships that help to favour the poor and the powerless?
  • • Might churches learn lessons about creation care after this deeply painful enforced sabbatical (with its apparent positive impact on the environment) and be at the forefront of developing new ways of doing things that help us all to steward creation in better ways?
  • Could churches play an even greater part in addressing other root causes of forcible displacement – playing a role in peace and reconciliation efforts to address wars and conflicts and grassroots economic development, for example?
  • Might churches find themselves able to address root causes of domestic abuse (even more prevalent during lockdown), urban violence and gang-warfare (some of which has apparently ceased during lockdowns)? 
  • Could churches prepare to defend freedom of religion and belief in a world in which governments have seen how much power they have to enforce curfews and lockdowns?

To have influence in any of these areas (and many others), churches and Christian agencies will have to give up power and control and stand together. 

Do we have the courage and faith to believe that trusting in the crucified and risen Christ, and the power of his Spirit, can mean that the Father is glorified, whether or not our “brand” (of church or agency) benefits (always assuming that our “brand” survives this multi-faceted crisis)? 

Standing together is a powerful testimony to the person of Christ (see John 17:20–23) – it’s hard to fathom why churches find it so difficult to do. 

But in the post-COVID-19 world, there may not be a choice. 

If that proves true, some good may yet come from the awfulness.

The tomb is empty: Jesus is alive and will one day return; there will be new heavens and a new earth. Our responsibility as his people in the meantime is to honour him as best we know how, virtually or metaphorically “hugging” a world in pain and preparing for the next stage of history.

Gordon Showell-Rogers is Global Director of One We Stand which promotes religious freedom and social justice. He was Associate Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance from 2010 to 2016, having previously been General Secretary of the European Evangelical Alliance for eleven years. He was a contributor to The Church in Disorienting Times: Leading Prophetically through Adversity which you can buy today.