Now, here’s a thing – sometimes there are very familiar verses of scripture that take on new meaning and significance as our circumstances change. Take this one, for example, ‘And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell – Matthew 18.9. That’s taken on new meaning for me after an eye problem I have developed that has left me (temporarily, I hope) without proper sight in one eye (I already had a poor sight in the other). The value of having two eyes in daily life seems really important to me at the moment (I was going to the bin the other day and failed to see either Sarah or her car, six feet away from me). But, no matter, because as Jesus says, some things are more important.
As we move out of the old year (has a year ever been so reviled as 2020?) and into a new one, we hope that things are going to change as the various vaccines deal with Covid-19 and we wonder which of the 2020 changes are going to stay with us. All of that on top of the sorts of changes that happen year-on-year anyway. Given all that, what are those more important things that Jesus was talking about? Well, here are some thoughts.
Clearly, first and foremost our standing before God and our eternal destination. If sin gets in the way of our relationship with God we need to deal with it – whether that is what we do (’If your hand offends you, chop it off’) or what we see (or think).
Secondly, if we have life in the spirit that needs to be reflected in our personality and character and how we live (it is a poor Christian who clings to unappealing personal traits because ‘That is who I am’). No, we need to show the fruits of the Spirit which are ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.’ – Ephesians 5.22-23.
Thirdly, we need to think about our life as a fellowship. Top of the list here, I am going to say, is that as soon as we can after Covid-19 we need to return to meeting together as often as we can. The words of Hebrews 10.25 seems almost a bit too relevant here – ‘…not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’ We may take the opportunity to think through our meetings and also how we might continue to use on-line facilities but no matter how good they can be (thank you Brian, Luke and others) they can be no substitute for meeting together as a fellowship.
Also, we need to ‘ Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.’ Galatians 6.2 There has been a lot of that over these past months as different people have supported those who cannot get out for one reason or another. But it needs to go beyond providing practical support to people with their everyday living. People have all sorts of burdens in their lives, from their own physical and mental infirmities through to anxieties about families and concerns about their own spiritual well-being and growth. We need to help each other with these. Things as well.
Lastly, we need to be concerned for the lost, as Jesus was “And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” – ‘Mark 16:15-16.
Wishing you every blessing in the new year!