Today I’d like to elaborate on a theme I introduced this past winter. During the pandemic, many people and organizations went into cocoons, literal and figurative. Many churches shut down completely, waiting for the pandemic to end so they could become caterpillars again. But I’d love to see the church emerge as a butterfly.
It has been said of caterpillars that the struggle to emerge from the chrysalis gives them the strength to become something new. The world has been changing around us. We can never go back to the way things were. Even the first new normal is outdated; we’re already on the third or fourth new normal.
Over the course of the last year, 52% of Americans volunteered for the first time, while nearly two-thirds worked on “bettering themselves.” Online Bible searches surged, as did prayer. The global desire for God has never been greater. The church now has a golden opportunity for a worldwide revival, one last chance to get it right.
What should the global church’s priority be as we emerge from the pandemic?
a) feeding people
b) letting people know they are loved by God
c) helping our communities
d) love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control
e) pointing out people’s sins
If you chose a, b, c, or d, I am very happy with you! If you chose e, COME ON NOW, REALLY?
The prophet Micah writes, “What does the Lord require of you? To seek justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with your God” (6:8). Isaiah writes, “The kind of fasting I want is this: Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives. If you put an end to oppression, to every gesture of contempt, and to every evil word; if you give food to the hungry and satisfy those who are in need, then the darkness around you will turn to the brightness of noon” (58:6-10, abbreviated). When Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” he responded, “Love God and love your neighbor” (Mark 12:30-31). James writes, “What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world” (1:27).
It’s not like we have to reinvent the wheel.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were to say “church” and others would say, “Oh, that’s the place that helps people” or “that’s the place where I feel welcome and safe” or “that’s the place making a difference” or “thank God for churches!”
In other words, wouldn’t it be wonderful if people said the same thing about churches as they do about Jesus?
I pray for a post-pandemic church guided by simple truths: God is real, God is good, and God loves us. I pray for a post-pandemic church in which everyone is welcomed. I pray for a post-pandemic church in which we discuss our differences with love, while prioritizing our commonality.
The whole world is suffering right now. We can add to the suffering, or we can try to alleviate it. We can imitate Congress, saying “we’re only human,” or we can try to be something better ~ a butterfly instead of the same old caterpillar.
The most encouraging thing: it won’t even be that hard to do. All that is needed is to remember that we are saved by grace, given more than we deserve, and to respond with gratitude, praise and love.