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Covid Contrarians

So how does the Church survive in the time of Covid?

One day during a Q&A session with Jesus, this query was raised: “If I am to love my neighbor as myself, then who is my neighbor?” Jesus followed with the story of the Good Samaritan. It was shocking to his Jewish audience, to say the least. He expressed a radical culturally-contrarian servanthood.

In the early Church, the ethic of the Sermon on the Mount created a servant culture that was absolutely breathtaking.Love your enemies?—you’ve got to be kidding: we’re talking about an oppressive Roman government, the one that persecutes us. But they did.

The Greek satirical writer and skeptic Lucian wrote in the second century: “It is incredible to see the ardor with which the people of that religion help each other in their wants. They spare nothing. Their first legislator has put into their hearts that they are all brethren.”

When decimating diseases and plagues struck towns and cities and people fled to the rural areas, it was the Christians who stayed so they could take care of the sick. Even when doctors would flee for their lives. In the fourth century, the Roman emperor Julian—who hated Christianity and wanted to rub it out—wrote angrily to a friend that the Christians “feed not only their poor but ours also.”

If we really want to know what the Kingdom of God is like, we should be able to look at the Church. But instead we often see politics and posturing, bickering and bigotry, hypocrites and hierarchies. Yet the one power the Church is uniquely imbued with is: servanthood. Wrapped in grace and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

While the stories of the pagan gods were about them creating people so that they—the gods—may be served, the story of a God who comes to earth in the form of a servant in order to “serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” was stunning.

So the question the Church must ask in the time of Covid is not how do we survive, but rather, how do we serve?

And that requires imaginative thinking that is contrary to the culture. Like Jesus.


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