Exile from the world
Exile from the world
6 May 2020
I’m a bit concerned for my minister’s ego since this live-streaming business started. He stands, uninterrupted, and preaches with nary a cough nor an infant howl to hamper his flow. At intervals of a few seconds, the screen in front of him is filled with floating hearts, bestowed by his remote audience. The worry is that he may expect us to replicate this experience when ‘normality’ is restored. Will I have to stand on the balcony and shower confetti and balloons down? Will ushers be placed at strategic points throughout the church, ready to silence any sound from the congregation?
It is only one of many questions we have about ‘afterwards’. We are trying, I think, in that very human way, to be stalwart and optimistic, yet not think too much about that great, unnamed date when we can breathe easily and move freely once more. We are – all of us – trying to make sense of this situation. What is God speaking to us in the midst of lockdown? To me, anyway, he is reinforcing one of the great truths of the Christian life: you are captive if you do not have Christ.
In the privileged West, we have an illusion of freedom. Until COVID-19 happened, we could travel internationally, move freely within our own country, shop for unlimited food and supplies, 24 hours a day and seven days a week in many cases. No one would challenge you, as long as you kept the laws of the land. Parks were teeming with people, roads and retail outlets chock-a-block. Oh, how things have changed. I don’t say this out of any kind of schadenfreude, but in hope that it finally reveals the illusion we were under.
Freedom of movement, freedom to work and travel and purchase ... these are not the real freedoms we should be seeking after. Look how easily they are taken from us; watch how readily we sacrifice them when life is at stake.
When life is at stake. Think about what that means to you. Are we really just intent on keeping well so that we can return to a life of work and travel and retail, and going out with our friends
for coffee? Or are we interested now in having life more abundantly? Christ promises us a rich life in him – not, as the atheists would tell you, a vague promise of something better when you die, but a full life beginning the moment you accept him as Lord.
What does that mean in this situation?
I can’t speak for other Christians, but I can tell you what it means for me. This pandemic doesn’t remove my freedom in the least because what I value most is my life in Jesus.
I live alone, but I can truthfully say that I am not lonely. Jesus is my constant companion, and the channel between us is always open. He will never be too busy, too weary or too preoccupied with himself to hear our concerns.
This is an unprecedented time that he has already blessed to me. All those many things and people that normally fill my hours, they have been laid aside. It reminds me powerfully of that time, five years ago, after my husband died. I was signed off work and had a lot of time alone in the house then too. My relationship with the Lord grew in strength, because nothing else could intrude: not work, not worry, not wrong priorities.
Once again, he has imposed complete rest upon me so that I might rest in him. And he has taken away our false freedom, so that we might all see the chains that hold us, as well as the glorious means to break them forever.
What a wonderful outcome, then, if this time of exile from the world would be the means to open our eyes. Already, I know that online church services are attracting the unchurched, that many whose Sunday habit does not include God, are coming to worship. No one constrains them to do this; they attend of their own free will.
What if, even as our bodies are imprisoned, countless souls are set at liberty to float freely like those love hearts for the Word of God? Truly, then, we could say that our bondage was worth it, for the preservation of life.