Eric Johnson was asleep on March 3 when Bella, the family’s six-year-old miniature Australian shepherd, woke him up. She was behaving erratically, giving him the sense that “something just didn’t feel right.”
He turned on the television to learn that a tornado was headed toward his town of Cookeville, Tennessee. He put his wife and their three children in a bathtub and was looking for Bella when the tornado struck their house. Their home was destroyed; Johnson was thrown into his backyard. He suffered a head injury and his wife had broken ribs.
Bella was thrown into the yard and survived, but then went missing. Their family searched for her for weeks. A church friend and dog tracker finally found her in an alley four miles from their home. Johnson, his brother-in-law, and their pastor helped retrieve her.
After fifty-four days of living on her own, Bella was reunited with her family.
Using drones to deliver flowers
Help in hard times often comes from unexpected places.
Delivery robots are bringing goods and medical supplies to hospitals and others in need while helping support workers remain safe. Socially distanced people are using drones to deliver flowers, give virtual tours of quarantined cities, and even walk their dogs.
Turkey, which has become far more dictatorial and undemocratic in recent years, nonetheless has vowed solidarity with the United States during the pandemic. They recently sent 500,000 surgical masks, 4,000 overalls, 2,000 liters of disinfectant, 1,500 goggles, 400 N95 masks, and 500 face shields to the US.
I’ve been doing radio interviews nearly daily across recent weeks. One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “How can Christians make a difference in these days?” We all want to do what we can to help people and to honor our Lord.
In a secularized culture that condemns Christians for our supposed intolerance, how can we surprise others with his love and our compassion?
Major on the majors
I’ve been reading in Acts lately and came upon this odd statement: “We set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead” (Acts 28:11). Why would Luke include this note?
Paul and his group were being transported to Rome. After spending three months on the island of Malta, they were put on this ship. Its “twin gods” were Castor and Pollux, the twin sons of Zeus and Leah who were trusted as gods who protected sea travelers.
I’m certain that Saul the Pharisee would never have set foot on a Gentile ship with such graven images on it. They were a clear violation of the Second Commandment and an expression of blasphemous idolatry.
But Paul the Apostle had learned to “become all things to all people” for the sake of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:22–23). He knew that this pagan ship could bring him to the heart of the Empire where he could preach to Caesar and other key influencers.
And so, he chose to major on the majors, doing all that was needed to give the world what it needed most.
If you and I are going to impact the lives of our secular neighbors, we will likely need to do what Paul did. In these divisive days, for example, we must not let partisan politics keep us from sharing the gospel of the true King. As our culture debates pandemic treatments and responses, we can offer our hope in the Great Physician.
Let’s surprise those who do not love our Lord by loving them unconditionally and sharing with them the only antidote to death and pathway to eternal life.
Look for ways to make your private faith public
C. S. Lewis was right: “No Christian and, indeed, no historian could accept the epigram which defines religion as ‘what a man does with his solitude.’ It was one of the Wesleys, I think, who said that the New Testament knows nothing of solitary religion. We are forbidden to neglect the assembling of ourselves together. Christianity is already institutional in the earliest of its documents. The Church is the Bride of Christ. We are members of one another.
“In our own age the idea that religion belongs to our private life—that it is, in fact, an occupation for the individual’s hour of leisure—is at once paradoxical [and] dangerous.”
Stay-at-home restrictions can keep us from worshiping physically in person, but they cannot keep us from sharing our faith and God’s compassion in person.
Churches and Christians are using online platforms to reach large numbers of people and delivering food to neighbors. I know of churches that are sharing online resources to help parents homeschool their children and using social media to care for elderly members.
What loving way could you surprise someone you know?
“The purpose of life is not to be happy”
Many states and communities are starting to relax distancing regulations. Researchers are working on therapies and vaccines for COVID-19.
One day this outbreak will be over. But the relational bridges we build and seeds of compassion we plant in these days will enable us to reach people after the pandemic we could not reach before it began.
Ralph Waldo Emerson observed: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
How will you be useful today?