For most of us, the first questions asked when the extended community quarantine was put in place were: “What will happen to my family? What will this mean for our company? What will this mean for my job? How will this affect my classes?”
We were on survival mode at the start of the extended community quarantine. But as things began settling down in our personal lives and as the church continued coming together in prayer, we also kept seeing the overwhelming need surrounding us. We started to ask: “What is my role as a Christian in this time of crisis? How can the church be salt and light at this moment?”
Throughout different pandemics in history, the church has played a big role in serving the needs of the community, as a congregation and individually. A hundred years from now, this pandemic will be in history books. What will history then say about the church?
According to the passage in Isaiah 58, everyone who desires to please the Lord has a personal responsibility to serve the poor and the needy in the community:
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.” – Isaiah 58:6,7 (NLT)
This passage applies to both the church community and individual followers of Jesus Christ. The expression of this is different for every single person and every single local church. But as a body of Christ, together, we can make a dent. The key is to listen and to obey.
1. Abide in Jesus Christ.
We cannot move toward the right direction apart from abiding in Jesus Christ. He said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Without the grace that He provides, we can’t do anything.
In the midst of personal difficulties and economic limitations in this pandemic, will we run to God and cling to who He is? Will we choose to fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, not on the circumstance?
2. Keep in step with the Holy Spirit.
In Galatians 5:25, Paul exhorts the believer, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” To keep in step with the Holy Spirit means we neither go ahead of Him nor lag behind Him. Without sharpening our ear towards His voice, we won’t be able to know the next step. Both of these can only happen when we regularly and intentionally seek Him and connect with Him through prayer and meditating on the Word. As we do so, He will start to open our eyes to an immediate need that we can fill.
What is one small thing that you can do to serve others? In what way can you be a tangible expression of God’s love to others?
3. Obey in faith.
We each have a role to play that can benefit the community when we collaborate as the body of Christ. This means we are called to do different things. We may not be giving tens or hundreds of thousands of pesos for relief operations or we may not be able to open a building to house front liners, but when God asks us to do something, even if it seems small, we are compelled to follow through. Go for it and trust that He will provide the resources and the wisdom.
Prompted by an article on how the church became salt and light during the 1918 flu pandemic, I began to ask, “Is there an opportunity for Victory Fort to address the need of the community?” The idea of opening our doors to medical frontliners took seed. I knew that if it were from God, He would speak even to my own leaders. True enough, the leadership team loved the idea. On top of that, we found out that Mayor Lino Cayetano was looking for partners to house some front liners. We made the decision, not knowing where the money will come from. But God is indeed faithful. Within 24 hours, all the money and help we needed came. Indeed, when we stay on mission, God will give the provision.
As we steward the responsibility that God has given us to be salt and light to the community, we need to remember that we are called to demonstrate the gospel. But equally important is that we are called to declare the gospel.
God called us to make disciples, and we need to make sure we stay on that mission. We are Christ’s body, the church—not a foundation, a club, or a nonprofit organization.
In times of crisis, the government and private foundations can push back hunger, but it is only the Church that can push back darkness. Our battle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but are mighty in God and can break down strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3,4). Private donors and businesses can alleviate hunger and ameliorate poverty, but it is only the church that can push back darkness and bring in the light of the gospel (Matthew 5:16).
Let us remember that we fulfill the mission of God, not for the glory of the church, but ultimately for the greater glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).