by Curt Drexler, Lead Pastor
As we reach the one-year mark of being affected by Covid, I have been thinking, praying, and meditating on some things that have emerged during these months, hoping I would come to some helpful conclusions or resolutions. However, with the passage of time, my concerns have only grown deeper. I want to lay out what I’m seeing regarding the church, the faith and what may be happening right under our noses – and what I believe God is calling us to be.
C.S. Lewis wrote a book in 1941 called The Screwtape Letters, which depicted the workings of our enemy. In these letters, Screwtape (a seasoned warrior of Satan) instructs Wormwood (his apprentice) about what he is doing wrong in trying to “turn the patient,” which is how Screwtape describes turning a Christian away from the fellowship of believers and from following Christ. It is a masterful depiction of how easily we can be distracted from what we are called to.
The Screwtape Letters reminds us that Christians are in a real war. It is not just a war to distract us from good – it is a war for our very souls, and a strategy to weaken and destroy His Church. Throughout history, one particular tool has worked with precision and power – and continues to do so in every sphere of human influence, including the church: divide and conquer.
It is not a complicated tactic – it is a simple strategy to turn us against one another. As long as the enemy can make us think the person next to us is the problem, the actual enemy isn’t in focus. It changes us from a unified force to a divided army in our church, community, family, or relationships. It erodes our trust in each other and takes our focus off of God, the only true source of safety and security.
Between the election and the onset of Covid, 2020 was one of the most divisive years I can ever remember. It would have been bad enough if this dissension were confined to the political world, but it also began to seep into churches and into sincere believers’ hearts (including mine) without fanfare or overt detection.
This past year, I have been disappointed in my own responses. I have to admit that I was shocked by how quickly I picked a side, how easily I made judgements about others because they had different points of view. This wasn’t a disruption happening “out there.” It crept into my closest relationships, including my own family. How could this happen?
If “divide and conquer” were a one-time event, we could see it coming and fight it together. But this favorite tactic of our enemy is much more subtle. It’s cumulative and progressive, and with the help of the internet we can find, with a few clicks, scores of people who will reinforce our personal convictions . . . while eroding our trust and shared purpose as followers of Jesus.
Have you not said something like this over this past year: “Who can I trust?”
With that question comes a mic drop from the enemy – as soon as my trust in you is in question, I have begun to be cut out of the flock and am a prime target to be isolated from the very force designed to overcome the gates of hell. Here’s my concern as it relates to us who call Christ The Rock our church home.
When the pandemic hit and we were asked to suspend services, there were immediate reactions on all sides. Not just here, but across the nation. It was the birth pains of an (almost) invisible war. As soon as we made those excruciating decisions to hold services online for a time, sides began to form. I wish it were just sides centered on wearing or not wearing masks. But suspicions and conclusions ran deeper. We (including myself) began to believe the small voice suggesting there must be something more sinister going on. Once that line of thought gets crossed in our minds, trust, unity, and our calling as a church are in peril. The result of mistrust is that the pursuit of a common cause (the Gospel) gives way to every man for himself. When that takes root – the enemy wins!
We are beginning to see the pandemic wane, with infection rates decreasing. By summer, much of our lives will begin to return to more familiar rhythms. What none of us know yet is what damage has been done to our country – to our trust in our leaders, friends, family members, and even our church. On a personal level, I’m afraid I will be tempted to bury what was exposed when I was pressed, and I will want to deny I was part of the problem.
I long for us to get back to “normal” again. But things aren’t the same – we are not the same. God allowed us to see some pretty ugly things this year in our nation, and we would be wasting an opportunity if we pretend we didn’t see it.
He wants us to see something that was always there – not to shame us, but so we would see it and repent. God is giving us a chance to see and repent of any foothold the enemy has in our lives concerning our relationships with others and with Christ Himself.
The root problem isn’t a virus, a mask mandate, an election or differing opinions. The real problem is what it’s always been: sin. The sin that puts our thoughts and opinions above others. The sin that says I am the holder of truth, and I will defend my personal rights at all costs. When our personal truth becomes king, our ability to see and love others is diminished.
To live out the following Scripture passages in our present circumstances it will take humility, courage, and forgiveness. I wish we had never heard of Covid-19 – I wish it hadn’t affected the way we think, live and love others. But it has. I pray that we will not forget what we have learned and that we choose to live differently. We have been called together for a purpose greater than ourselves! We have been called to show what unity looks like in a world being shaken every day. We are called to be His Church! May it be so.
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 4Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
8Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 9Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. 11When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
13Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. • 1 Corinthians 13
I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. • John 17:23
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the LORD’s people. • Ephesians 6:12-18
Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. 14Do everything in love. • 1 Corinthians 16:13-14