1st August 2020
Our Dear Brethren,
As the sunshine began to beam through the opening in the curtains, the silence of the night was broken by the howling of a series of sirens. This is actually a common occurrence in our household since we live just around the corner from a firehouse. The intermittent sounds of emergency response vehicles throughout each day is a constant reminder of the stressful world we live in. There are times of peace and calm, and still places we can visit to temporarily hide away from chaos, but those times and those places are becoming more difficult to find.
We open up our computers, take out our phones, turn on the television or the radio, and we are constantly bombarded with political rhetoric, reports of wars, natural disasters, stories of children being swept away in the night, diseases spreading, and so much more. As individuals we are being asked to navigate through reality and try to discern between fact and fiction constantly. There is even push between brethren one way or the other, especially on social media platforms. Decisions about where we are allowed to worship, with whom we can worship, and sometimes even how we should worship, are being made for us.
What are we, as God's people, asked by Him to do in times such as this?
"And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake from sleep" (Romans 13:11a).
Does this phrase mean we should be awakened to the realities of some worldwide conspiracy that is working in the background to take away our freedoms? Does this mean we are to open our eyes to the evils that surround us around every corner? Is this a call to prepare ourselves to make a stand against restrictions that have been placed upon us against our will?
Let's read on...
"for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11b).
It is obvious that salvation is at stake here so we had better pay attention.
"The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light" (Romans 13:12).
What are these "works of darkness" that we are being told to throw out, to rid ourselves of? Is this in fact a warning for us to prepare to rise up in the face of oppression?
In fact this passage is a call to action, but not in the way that we might think. In fact this passage is a warning to us to get out from under oppression, to seek freedom. Freedom from sin. It is in fact our own sins that entrap us, that ensnare us, that tempt us, that push us apart from one another, that push us away from God, and that oppress us.
"Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts" (Romans 13:13-14).
On the day that Jesus Christ returns to find His faithful people here on the earth, we will not be identified by political alignment. We won't be identified by our country of origin. We won't be identified by organizational citizenship. We won't be identified in the way that many think that we will.
"Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12).
The interesting part is, even among the people of God there are disagreements about what it means to have faith. This gives us more to study on, to pray on, to meditate on, as we strive to build our faith, and encourage the faith of one another in love with patience. We are, after all, fellow workers together for the building up of the faith of one another (see 2 Corinthians 1:24).
Let's continue to allow God to open our eyes to the reality of our salvation and our striving against sin. No matter the storms and sirens of conflict that surround us, we must be ready to "walk properly" in the eyes of God as lights in this darkened world.
Our love is with you,
Pastor, United Church of God
NYC, NJ, CT, Malawi, Zimbabwe