By: John Bryant
As I write this, COVID-19 has landed like the alien invasion it has become - invisible, unexpected, tragic. The usual pattern of life has not been made more difficult, but rendered null and void. Everything’s closed and we are told to stay indoors. The stories that run our lives, the schedules that put us in cars and jets and send us across the world have been brought to a close by what we cannot see. We’ve been encouraged that the best way to love our neighbor is to stay inside and not see or touch anyone.
I find, more than anything, that the idea of “doing” has been taken from us. There is very little we can do, very little, it seems, that can be done. We may try to take things online, to transfer our busy ministries into new technological formats. But at some point we stop and realize we are no longer, now, people who “do.” Who are we when there is nothing we can do, and nothing, it seems that can be done?
If your work is like mine and the primary gift you feel you can offer is your time and presence, then maybe you are especially thrown back on yourself. I am humbled. I cannot shake hands. I cannot walk into psych wards and conduct Bible studies. I can’t share coffee. I had made my life so simple, I thought. “Be consistent,” I said. “Be present.” Now, in many ways, I can’t even give the little that I thought I could.
But, I find myself drawn by the Spirit into a different posture. Not just temporarily, but for, I hope the rest of my life. We are not people who do. We are people to whom something has been done. The ultimate difference between those who are God’s people and those who are not God’s people is what has been done but what has been received, what has been heard. A Christian is simply someone who heard good news and has held out his hands for mercy.
There is, of course, much to do. But a Christian is, primarily and always, someone who hears, someone to whom mercy has been given. If this is what we offer, the same mercy given us in Christ’s name, then may we offer it first by receiving it for ourselves, now more than ever.
And when we meet again, and when, through all this, we find new ways to meet and gather and encourage, let us meet as those who have come to hear a Word we cannot speak to ourselves, a Mercy we could not have invented, but a Mercy that will then set aside the few things we can do to the glory of the Lord and not for glory of doing. Amen.