It wouldn’t be an understatement to say my recent video message (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXVol_ke76M) has created some stir within the protestant community in India. It was a short and simple message on how Christians across the globe can be a light in a world which is groping in the dark and growing increasingly weary in light of the unending COVID19 crisis. Nothing more and nothing less. It was never meant to be a supercilious ridicule of the church in general. It was just an exhortation to live by faith — a faith which is based on action and not mere words.
Apostle James says faith without works is dead (James 2:26). In fact, he even goes to the extent of saying a person is justified by works and not just by faith alone. This might sound blasphemy to some Protestants, despite me quoting nothing but a verse in the Bible — James 2:24. Even the famed Martin Luther — who ushered in the Protestant reformation — took issues with the epistle of James, it seems.
However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Apostle Paul — Martin Luther’s hero — while writing to the Ephesian Church (2:10) says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works...” This he says after expounding salvation, in the preceding few verses, as what God graciously offers to all mankind on the basis of faith and not because of one’s own merit. So, in essence, we are indeed saved by faith in Jesus but a person who is saved will do good works, automatically. Unlike others, a true Christian will do good works not out of compulsion or with any ulterior motive, but because that is what he has been made for.
Now with the corona virus ravaging almost every part of the world, we see scores of people dying and a million more lonely, anxious and hopeless. What are the Christians supposed to do? Praying for the virus to vanish when done out of love for people’s soul would be an acceptable prayer and a good start. A permanent death due to sin is more damning than a temporary death due to corona virus. Moreover, since God doesn’t desire the death of someone who doesn’t know Jesus, we should stand in the gap and intercede for the sins of this world.
Also, a true Christian who lives by faith would not just stop with prayers. Like our forefather Abraham, we would couple our faith with action. It is not just enough to pray within our four walls for the world to be saved by accepting Jesus Christ. We need to step out of our comfort zone and share Jesus in whatever ways possible. Following are some practical ways through which we can point Jesus — the Messiah — to the dying world.
1. Role Modeling: There was a news report which claimed some Covid-positive patients were deliberately spitting on the floor, so that others too could catch the virus. Christians can reach people like this only when we develop the attitude to repay good for evil. St. Francis of Assisi said, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” A revival is long overdue, and it can happen only when Christians behave like Christ.
2. Acts of Charity: Everyday, we hear news reports of migrants and the marginalized suffering. Christians can reach people like this in our own special way. We can open our homes and church for the sick, give generously to the NGO’s that assist the poor, pay our staff and servants even when they are unable to work for us, forgo rents of our tenants during this difficult time, etc.
3. Thought Leadership: Every week, we hear some company shutting down or laying off their staff. We even hear of people going into depression or worse, committing suicide. Christians can reach these vulnerable people by providing them hope and leadership. We can use social media to connect and encourage the fearful and advice entrepreneurs and small business owners on how to think and act differently during times of uncertainty.
4. Building next Gen: The social distancing though a limitation at this moment can be a blessing in disguise. This is a valuable time to spend time with our loved ones, especially the younger generation to build their faith and outlook towards life. Children are our legacy and the light at the end of the dark tunnel, when we would no longer exist in this planet.
5. Sharing the Gospel: In a time where ‘hope’ is a rare commodity than Maggi noodles or a face mask, who better than us — who have loads of hope — could prosper by making others prosper? St. Paul writing to the Corinthian Church (9:16) says, “...woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.” Every Pastor, Evangelist and Church elder should use every medium possible to share the gospel — which is basically a message of hope. More than a virus vaccine or gold, what the world needs now and even when the pandemic is over is Jesus Christ — the Saviour.
God can yet show us many other ways to reach the affected ones, if only we start loving our neighbors more than ourselves. The ability to hold the tension of the opposite should be the hallmark of every Christian. We should love our neighbors with the same intensity with which we love God. Only then the scripture (James 2:23) would be fulfilled, which speaking of Abraham’s act of offering Isaac says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. And he was called God’s friend.” Will God say that you are his friend?