Midweek Musings on the State of our Faith
Just like many of you, I have taken this Coronavirus containment thing (maybe a tad too) seriously. I’ve limited my physical interaction with other human beings to those I meet at home and people I have to share oxygen with on the route between my car to my office cubicle (as a pharma company providing medicine to tackle various diseases, we’re expected to stay operational with precautions until a total lockdown is enacted).
Since I’ve also decided to completely avoid crowded places such as gyms, malls, and restaurants, spending my nights at home has resulted in an overload of Netflix, Instagram Stories, and Bible-reading.
Now, it is the interface between the latter two while taking a break from the first that resulted in my making an interesting (in my mind, at least) observation: the state of our Christian life today amid the Coronavirus pandemic has, in a way, reverted back to life during the early Church (please feel free to correct me as Acts of the Apostles is one of the few New Testament books that I haven’t read in its entirety).
Here is why:
- The early Christians were very much an oppressed group. They were forced to practice their faith and worship in secret, out of fear of the Romans (and the Jews and the Greeks), who were persecuting them, discovering them and committing violence against them (sadly, this still happens to many of our fellow faithful living under more brutal regimes). As such, they did not have large corporate worships; instead, they prayed and worshipped in small groups in people’s houses.
- A consequence of this cell group structure was that not all groups had an apostle or deacon to lead them, which resulted in them worshipping and reading materials that had been distributed to them: the Gospel of Christ Jesus, as well as the letters of the apostles such as Paul (and probably others, as well).
What struck me as interesting is that, firstly, faith in this time of Corona is very similar to the conditions many Christians face today: Fear of an outbreak of Coronavirus infection takes the place of the fear of oppressors, preventing us from having corporate gatherings and resorting to receiving teachings or sermons online (a modern version of the letters of the apostle) in smaller groups.
Secondly, those who still seek God’s words and teachings in these trying times will be, as during the early Church, people who truly thirst for God’s presence in their life and would go to great lengths to receive it.
While the first saddens me somehow (especially as a Catholic for whom receiving the Body of Christ every Sunday is a foundational part of faith), the second encourages me, somehow. For too long, I have seen (young) people taking Sunday service for granted: people coming, not to listen to the pastor’s words, but, to mingle and “socialize” with friends. Listening to God’s words and teachings is just a part of a Sunday routine that needs to be done before they can go to Sunday lunch and coffee. I hope that, now, when access is somewhat “harder” and requires additional effort, many of us will come to appreciate God’s words and teachings more deeply and profoundly.
As a currently popular meme goes: our forerunners in the early Church were called to risk their lives to commune with God; we are simply asked to go online and pay full attention for one-plus hour.
May we grow closer to God in this challenging times.
By Dennis Widjaja, CFJ Vice President