When I was first approached about writing for the Lenten series Jesus, Teach us How to Die, I was certain of how I would address the topic. I was heading to Peru on a medical mission trip over spring break, and what better opportunity is there to speak about dying to self and living the Gospel than medical missions? But as COVID-19 took over the world and cancelled not only international travel but also meetings of believers at home, this theme has taken on a different meaning. Each day we watch the death toll climb and see what we once thought as secure be exposed for the shoddy foundation that it is. Times like these challenge us to reevaluate our relationships with the world around us. How do we live a Gospel-centric life in the new normal of hand sanitizer and self-quarantine? How can we love our neighbors when we can’t even see them? How do we die to self when there are thousands dying physically in this pandemic?
Though our circumstances change, God’s word remains. We are called to daily take up our cross and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24), and Paul writes, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Furthermore, we are “ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Consequently, our response to uncertain times must reflect the certain hope that we have in the only true foundation, Jesus Christ.
Historically, times of insecurity and upheaval have been when the Church has spoken best. Augustine of Hippo composed The City of God in response to the Visigoth sacking of Rome in A.D. 410, which marked the first time the eternal city had been taken in nearly 800 years. Within it, he reminds believers that the Kingdom of God is not shaken by political and societal turmoil, but that it supersedes all human constructs and will ultimately triumph.
We can rest in this truth. Living hid with Christ today requires understanding the current pain while retaining an eternal perspective and recognizing that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well” (Julian of Norwich, A.D. 1373). Dying to self requires surrendering our fear of uncertainty for a whole-hearted trust in the Lord, the sustainer of our souls (Psalm 54:4). In doing so, we preach the Gospel to those around us and bring glory to His name.
In Lent we commemorate Christ’s life and death, and in Easter we celebrate his resurrection triumph over death through which we may have life in Him. His perfect sacrifice paid the price for our sin, and in response we live fully devoted to Him. Take time this week to contemplate how the Gospel changes everything and what it means to live hid with Christ in these troubled times. In doing so, we can better fulfill our call to reconcile the world to God.