It takes a problem with no clear solution to force us to look at our priorities
Jesus said: “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”John 13:34-35 NLT
Is God listening?
When life throws up a problem and there seems to be no way through, what do we do? Pray, obviously. Perhaps we were already seeking God and we’re just not hearing an answer. And it’s getting more difficult, not less.
One conclusion might be that God isn’t listening — but that lie of the enemy is exposed by Scripture’s overwhelming witness of how attentive the Father is to us, His children.
Or we might, in despondency, conclude that God is just not talking to us.
But if God appears silent, it is for a reason, and love is behind that reason. And so, perhaps reluctantly, we ask the Good Question. I call it that because it is never wrong, never misplaced, never irrelevant. But it’s the uncomfortable one — and so it’s the question we’re reluctant to consider.
Waiting for us to ask
It gives new meaning to the old catchphrase, “I thought you’d never ask”.
What is God teaching us here?
I’m writing this in what may be the grimmest week in the worst pandemic in recent history. We’re all watching the graphs and charts and comparing our region with others, hoping for an improvement.
I like to be in church, in praise and worship and fellowship, coming away with some good teaching to encourage and challenge me, and the good feeling of belonging and being among friends. And some churches are doggedly maintaining a semblance of their weekly routine, with spaced out chairs, taking your temperature at the door and no singing, perhaps humming behind your mask. And the message? That’s been cut down to a brief ‘do-this-and-don’t-do-that’ homily “in the interests of time”.
Change of priorities
What is God teaching us here? Perhaps, at a time when our priorities are up-ended, He is prompting us to take a good look at what those priorities are. Is keeping the routine going really important to anyone other than the one leading it? What about the pastoral need to be keeping contact with, supporting (and praying with!) those who are anxious, at home — especially those in a higher age range or with health conditions and therefore feeling more vulnerable.
Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
Our relationship with Jesus is personal and individual. It doesn’t rely on a building, a minister, a praise band, an order of service or a sacrament. Salvation is not found in any of these things. Salvation is found in knowing a person we can relate to, who made a way for us to know God: Jesus. So to love people as He loved, is personal and relational. People who are isolated and anxious need personal reassurance and hope from God’s love expressed in the Bible, not the reciting of liturgy.
The drive to keep things going is attempting to find security in routine, as if nothing has changed. But security in anything other than God will always prove insubstantial.
The one thing that never changes, is God’s nature and the confident hope He gives to anyone who takes hold of Jesus and what He has done. This reveals God’s nature as the One who IS love, the compassionate, faithful, forgiving kind.
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.
People see how we are before they hear what we say. The witness that reveals what God is like to others, is in how we relate, how we reach out without condition, us sharing God’s love by being there for others.
Here’s a suggested prayer to use as the basis for your own:
Lord, what are you teaching me through this terrible time? I want to be close to You, to hear what You say and to be doing what You are doing.
Thank You for Your love for me, shown in the awful reality of Jesus dying on the Cross out of love for me. May Your love so fill my heart that it cannot do other than to overflow it to others You show me or put across my path.
I hear and take hold of Your commandment to love others. Show me who needs a telephone call or a note through the door or some act of kindness I can safely do — that others will know Your love, too. In Jesus’ name, Amen