It is a strange new world.
For many of us, working from home and fully online education has become the new normal. Routine gatherings have been cancelled, and major events have been postponed until further notice. “Social distancing,” an essentially unused term prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, is now a major topic of discussion.
In spite of these uneasy times, our hope in the Gospel of Jesus Christ remains certain.* Hebrews 6:19 calls our hope “sure and steadfast,” indicative of the fact that what God has promised believers in Christ remains guaranteed. Likewise, 1 Peter 1:3–5 says,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Our inheritance in Christ is secure, and our eternal destiny is certain.
Also unchanging in this time of uneasiness is the Christian’s responsibility to other people—to fellow believers as well as nonbelievers. The church has developed useful ways to care for its own and promote fellowship among believers without meeting in person. We have sought, as best as possible, to avoid “forsaking our own assembling together” and to give ourselves to “encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:25) at a healthy distance. Many of us have accustomed ourselves to watching or listening to our churches’ services online, worshiping in our own family units, and encouraging fellow Christians through digital communication. But what about our biblical responsibility to nonbelievers?
After His resurrection, Jesus Christ instructed His disciples to serve as His “witnesses” throughout the world (Acts 1:8)—a responsibility which extends to all who have trusted in Christ for salvation (cf. Revelation 22:17). How then ought we to go about seeking to advance the truth of the Gospel—proclaiming Christ’s death as the payment for sins and His resurrection as the basis for the certain hope of eternal life—when the opportunity for personal interaction is so severely limited?
There are a few things we can consider. First, and of great importance, we must not neglect to pray that the message of the Gospel would go forth. Although we personally may be constrained, the Gospel itself is not bound. We must pray, broadly, that, in a time of such great uncertainty, the Holy Spirit would convict nonbelievers to seek the One who truly can provide stability and hope. More specifically, we must pray for our nonbelieving friends and family that God would create opportunities for them to hear clearly the message of the Gospel and be compelled to think on Christ’s offer to trust in Him for eternal life. We should likewise pray that God would ready us to explain the Gospel and attest to the working of Christ in our own lives if He chooses to use us in reaching out to those individuals.
Second, we should make a concerted effort to regularly check in (by phone or video call) with our nonbelieving friends and relatives. Not only does this demonstrate personal care for them (while respecting their health), it increases the likelihood of an opportunity to share the Gospel. With the rapid spread of COVID-19 causing many to reflect upon their own mortality (and the meaning of life in general), we may more frequently have opportunities to direct our conversations with others toward a discussion of eternal matters and of our need for salvation through the work of Jesus Christ.
Third, we must remember that, while many aspects of our own lives are proverbially “on hold,” life has continued in a less interrupted fashion in other countries. Christian missionaries around the world remain active in their ministries despite the spread of the pandemic. Some of them, however, are in tremendous need because their funding has dried up due to regular supporters facing their own financial hardships. We must not forget them! In addition to praying for the health and well-being of missionaries working in areas where their safety may be at risk, we should also remember to support them financially. Many of us living in the United States are expecting to soon receive federal aid. If we are not in immediate need of those funds to care for our families, we might consider giving either a portion or all of the federal aid coming to us to support the work of missionaries who remain active in the work of proclaiming the Gospel.**
Even in these difficult times, just as our hope in the Gospel remains unchanging, so also does the need to participate in the proclamation of the Gospel persist. In the coming months, we will continue to discuss the topic of personal evangelism, and we will look specifically at how the discipline of apologetics ties in to it. My upcoming series of entries will reflect on the intersection between witnessing to the truth of the Gospel and providing a reasoned defense of the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.
*All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, is from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
**Besides seeking to meet the material needs of those proclaiming the Gospel in missional contexts, we must also remember to support the local church financially, especially in this uneasy time when giving is dropping off at many churches. Additionally, we can think of ways to use discretionary funds to create opportunities for us to share the Gospel in our local communities. For instance, once the requirements of social distancing have passed, consider going out to eat, to materially support those who have been out of work due to quarantines—and then take the time to personally share the Gospel with those serving you.