As we’re dealing with the challenge of this Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it seems as if the faith community has begun to challenge one another’s level of faith. Christians that have shown concern have had their trust in God questioned, at times in a hostile manner, with a Scripture provided to seemingly soften the blow (i.e. “God said it, I didn’t”).
Christians that have decided to keep their distance (staying in doors, missing church) have been accused of falling to the wiles of the devil and possessing a spirit of fear, and not that of a sound mind. Christians that have chosen to be cautious have been accused of turning their backs on the same God that has kept them. They’ve been accused by people that act as if they’ve never doubted God a day in their lives. Yes, we have entered into an area of “faith shaming” where we propose to know what’s in one another’s heart, and we’ll even throw discernment around for good measure just in case people wanna question how we’ve come the conclusions that we’ve come to.
Many of us have even thrown around our conspiracy theories for good measure, shaking our holy heads at those who aren’t up on our various theories, failing to realize that by pushing such things, we actually create another form of hysteria and create a culture of people that will be paranoid about EVERYTHING, never believing that God is in EVERYTHING, even those things that He simply allows. We’re missing the fact that if we push man’s theories more than we push our theology, that God is STILL able, we’re not helping the church, we’re harming it.
It’s true that faith must be exercised during this most challenging time, but I’m concerned when we as the church will try and drag people to a level of faith as opposed to compelling them, not just with words and The Word, but more importantly, with actions and how we exercise our own faith. We must be careful not to convey an attitude that suggests that because we have faith, we’re taking all of this lightly, and if that’s the case, we need to rethink our position.
Faith doesn’t mean there’s an absence of danger, it simply means that we trust God in the midst of danger. There was danger in Daniel’s lion’s den situation, but God kept him. There was danger in the fiery furnace of the 3 Hebrew boys situation, but God kept them. I would submit to you that if there’s no danger, one doesn’t need as much faith. While we’re walking in our faith, we shouldn’t seek to minimize what we’re actually walking in just to make the trepidation of our brothers and sisters seem less valid. Even if you have the strongest of faith, just know that you weren’t born that way. And even now, you still have moments of weakness. Only a robot can say otherwise.
It was Abram (who would eventually become Abraham), the father of faith, that was told in Genesis 12:1-4 to leave his country and kinfolk and move as God commanded because God was gonna make him a great nation. By Verse 10 of that same Chapter, he was in Egypt because of a famine, encouraging his wife to lie so that they could get what they needed. If you know the story, you know how disastrous this could’ve been for all involved. Instead of showing great faith, Abram showed weak faith. And yet, God still kept them from harm and they left the Pharaoh’s house unscathed.
It was this same Abram in Genesis 16 (after a one on one conversation with God in Chapter 15), along with his wife, that chose to impregnate Hagar because he couldn’t quite see how Sarai (Sarah) was going to have a baby in her old age. In his quest to “help” God, he showed a lack of faith and tried to do it his way. And yet, once again, God kept him.
In the midst of these circumstances, Abram was growing in his faith. The lesson for us is that faithful individuals are not born, they’re grown. For us to condemn people that haven’t grown as we have will actually stunt their growth and cause them to retreat when we do return to some sense of normalcy.
Those episodes that Abram faced tells me that in one moment, even the chosen of God can move in faith, and in another moment, they could be doing things against God in what they believe is an effort to help God. But if we are God’s people, even in moments of weak faith, God will still keep us. And while we may be seeing people displaying weak faith during this time, they need to know that God won’t abandon them because of it. They need to know that God will be patient as they grow, even if we act as if we won’t be.
As we go forward questioning the faith of our fellow Christians, we must remember that we weren’t always as strong as we are now. But we must also remember that God didn’t keep us just so that we can shame people that aren’t on our faith level. He kept us so that we could encourage them. Know that there is a difference between encouragement and criticism. Encouragement lifts you from where you are and criticism condemns you for being there in the first place.
If there’s anything that I want the church to get from all of this is that we’re all growing in faith at our own pace. Some may not be as strong as we are. Many that claim faith haven’t really had their faith tested in this way before. And while we should be bold in proclaiming our “unwavering” faith, we should be sensitive to those that have yet to reach that level.
The best thing that we can be in times like these is an example. While some will respond well to us being instructional about our faith, many more will respond to us being exemplary. If we show what we want them to see, they’ll have more than words to aspire to. Don’t use the Bible to beat them into submission, use it to show them why you have submitted. Not only do some need to grow in their faith, but we also need to grow in our compassion towards those that are yet on their way.