Unmasked

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

2 Timothy 2:3-4

Here’s a bit of irony for you: the issue of whether or not to wear a mask has unmasked a disturbing dereliction of duty within the Church.

If only the problem were confined to small bits of cloth…

But it isn’t. Every time I browse social media, a heaviness invades my heart.

So much of my feed brims with frustration. So many responses are subtly, or even overtly, hostile. So many opinions flung into virtual print seethe with smugness and accusation but lack verifiable data.

It’s sad to see the bickering in the secular world, but it’s appalling to see it within the Body of Christ. It’s as if we’ve forgotten who our enemy is.

Our enemy is not the lady asking you to please put on a mask in the grocery entryway, nor is it the man walking around without one.

Politicians, political parties, billion dollar industries, liberals, conservatives, illnesses, treatments, “THEM” – none of these are our enemies. And none will be our savior.

In truth, all the issues causing us distress and mouth-foaming rage are temporary. Transient. A vapor soon dispersed by the wind.

For those of us who are in Christ, the time we spend here is not a matter of rights or politics or safety. It’s a matter of eternal life or death.

Brothers and sisters, the hour is growing late. We are ambassadors for the King, and it’s imperative we remember what this means.

And if I may be frank, getting caught up in the swirling digital babble clamoring over politics and masks and disease numbers and the maelstrom of controversy does not point the hurting, sin-weary heart to Christ.

We are called to share in suffering, not dodge it. We willingly sacrifice all else in order to proclaim forgiveness of sin through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If we are in Christ, our allegiance is not to any worldly agenda. It is to God’s agenda, and it we take it up at any cost to ourselves. A quick glance through the pages of Scripture yields several examples.

Jeremiah endured public ridicule and imprisonment, but not for his rights – for the Word of God. And he did it after God told him no one would listen.

Hosea did not place his right to a happy and satisfying marriage over his obedience to God’s command to marry an unfaithful prostitute. The command of God superseded his rights and he knew it. And acted on it.

Ezekiel did not spend over a year lying on his left side and eating bread baked over a poop fire because it brought him joy. He did it for the Lord.

Paul did not suffer persecution, torture, and chains by standing up for his earthly freedoms. He, too, did it for the honor of serving the Lord.

They knew what today’s Church seems to have forgotten. This world is dark, broken, horrible. Bad things will happen. And yes, we will lose rights and freedoms; we will be persecuted. We will suffer harm.

But if we belong to Christ, we will not be overcome so long as we remain faithful to Him and His calling on our lives. But we must have a willingness to share in suffering as good soldiers.

The enemy is not out there, fudging numbers and plotting to cover the faces of the globe with cloth. The true enemy works intimately, stirring up our pride; our selfishness; our sin.

Mine. Yours.

And he is gloating over our distraction from our primary purpose as ambassadors for the Kingdom of God. Let’s no longer give him the satisfaction.

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, 
but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 
Rejoice always, 
pray without ceasing, 
give thanks in all circumstances; 
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 
Do not quench the Spirit. 
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything;
hold fast what is good. 
Abstain from every form of evil. 
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, 
and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:15-24

Tuesday Prayer: Ambassadorship

… in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…
(1 Peter 3:15)

O Lord Our Righteousness, Your name truly is Holy – the Name above all other names. It is only by Your grace that we share in the righteousness of Your Son and not by anything we have done. This gift – Your righteousness – is a gift we could never earn even if we were given thousands of years to try. It is by Your hand and by the obedience of Your Son alone that we are given a chance to clothe ourselves in His righteousness and be called by His name.

As the world around us seems to spin out of control in a downward spiral of rage, argumentativeness, name-calling, and finger-pointing, remind us who we are in Christ. May we bear His name well in all we do, allowing His righteousness to guide our words, our thoughts, our entertainments, and all decisions whether small or large. Let us be good ambassadors and show us what it means to be always prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in us.  May we never forget to do so with gentleness and respect.

Keep our consciences clean, Lord, and forgive us when we have entered wrongly into debates with unbelievers and answered hostility and arrogance with more of the same. Though our intentions may be good, we too often get tripped up by our emotions and simply fuel the raging fire of panic and anger.

Instead, when we speak with those who do not know You, remind us that we were once blind, poor, and fatally sick in our sin before You saved us. The people who rage and fume, the people who seem to be at war against Your Church are not actually our enemy. They are deceived and pawns in the hands of the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

With that in mind, help us to keep our sharpest discipline and judgement on the inside, directed at our own hearts and churches, just as Jesus had the sharpest words for the religious leaders of His time. When it comes to those outside the Church, let us share with them our genuine joy in the Good News of our own rescue.

Lord, teach us to walk so closely with You that every single response which falls from our lips is seasoned by Your Word and guided by Your wisdom. Help us not to become frantic or fearful as the darkness closes in but remind us that Jesus warned us it would happen. And yet, no matter how dark the world becomes – and it has been dark since the first man and woman sinned – our King is still the Light of the world. There is no darkness which can overcome You.

So help us to trust You, Lord. Guide us to peace and confidence in Christ, speaking the Gospel from a place of genuine trust and absolute conviction that Your word will do what You send it to do. You are faithful, Lord, and You will bring to completion Your own perfect plan. We can rest in that, cooperating with You as Your people and not falling into the mistake of blending with the culture around us.  Teach us to be proper ambassadors for You, appealing on behalf of Christ, “Be reconciled with God!”

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:20-21)