The COVID culture is upon us. Yet as serious a threat as the virus is, I believe it is the culture we are creating in response that poses the greater danger. Our culture has become one of the most divided in our nation’s history – division and suspicion abound. The polarizations are becoming iconic. Which side are you on?
- Masks or no masks
- Health or freedom
- Crisis or conspiracy
- CNN or Fox News
- Shut down or open up
- The Government’s Responsible or the Individual’s Responsibility
“Seek truth, not sides”
We need to seek truth, not sides – whether we are facing a COVID surge or a racist concern – but we will not do so without humility. One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 11:2, “With the humble is wisdom.” I wrote an entire study on this one verse. (To access click here.) Among other wisdom-giving benefits, humility will allow us to listen to contrary sides, seek objectivity, and modify our course of action accordingly. Pride however is stubbornly committed to our way being the only possible solutions.
By default, I am a very fearful person. Therefore I have learned that if I am going to be functional in fear, I must focus on the facts – the truth. I try to discern between pertinent facts versus potential fears. For instance, when I step on an airplane, I have consciously think on what I know for sure versus what I don’t know for sure. This helps me not experience what the bible calls a “spirit of fear” instead of a “sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7). I blame my older brother for all this. He used to leave me in the basement, run up the stairs, flip the light switch off and shut and lock the door. My resulting childhood trauma and PTSD led me to OCD as I aged. Along my journey, as a follower of Christ, I was led to biblical counseling and learned to check what my facts and faith said not merely my fears.
“How I have dealt with the COVID fear”
Because of how I have learned to deal biblically with my fear, I have responded to the COVID-19 outbreak as sensibly as possible. I do my best to filter through all the propaganda to the pertinent facts – whether they be fear-producing or fear-reducing. As best I can, I want to be prepared to provide wisdom for those I counsel. If you humbly seek truth and wisdom it will not matter if the pertinent facts favor one end or the other of the polarizations and politicization. Proverbs 27:12 says that the righteous person sees danger and hides but a fool rushes in and is injured. I want to make sure my feelings do not leading but rather my seeing so that I can take reasonable precautions. I have a responsibility to love as I counsel others wisely – facts inform my love. In contrast, Proverbs 28:1 says that the ungodly run though no one pursues while the righteous are as bold as lions. I don’t want to be running from COVID-19 faster than necessary, for again I have a responsibility to love as I counsel others wisely during this pandemic. My search for truth to love others well led me to speak to various Christian medical professionals over the last weeks – picking their brain so to speak. The medical professionals that would grace me with extra time, I would ask them deeper questions that only a transformed OCD person would consider.
“My plea to the Culture”
Truth seekers are open to where the facts lead – whether it is fear-producing or fear-reducing. So here is my advice to the Covid culture that we have created. As you listen to others share their perspectives and their collection of pertinent facts, listen humbly, attempting to be ruled by one desire, “How do I please God.” Then attempt to practice discernment. Ask yourself (and even them if appropriate), “Is it logical? Is it credible? Is it disputable?” Truth matters, so good questions are essential.
Christians know the reality that truth exists and that we must conform to the truth for the truth is a respecter of no one. This is because all Christians have come to a humble admission under the truth that we all have fallen short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23) and are in need of God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ. We admit this even though it is not flattering to our esteem because it is true. Christians are truth-seekers even at the expense of their ego. We know that if we do not comply with truth – wherever it may lead – the truth will one-day force itself upon us and expose our folly and destruction. This is true whether it has to do with finding out what is the truth about our depravity, about Covid-19 danger, about the extent of alleged police brutality, or even the truth about capitalism, socialism or marxism. Truth matters, but often hard to find – impossible without humility. Jesus said we will either fall on the Rock or the Rock will fall on us (Luke 20:18). Jesus also said wisdom is vindicated by her children (Luke 7:35). This means that in time a decision’s results will prove its wisdom. Proverbs says If you are wise you are wise for yourself, but if you scoff wisdom you alone will bear it (Prov 9:12). I have been both haunted and helped over my lifetime by that verse based on my response to truth.
“Be a culture that seeks truth in humility not hedonism”
The COVID-19 culture that has emerged out of the USA has proven to me that we are not a culture that seeks truth in humility. We are more like the political leader of Rome, Pilot, who in the pressures and culture of his day thought the idea that truth existed to be absurd. This he spoke even as he stood before the bleeding son of God – the word and truth in flesh – knowing the citizens had lost their sensibilities. They pursued the death of the most innocent and loving man that ever walked the earth. The Truth stood before them arrayed in indisputable facts yet because he was a threat to their desires and dynasty so they rejected and murdered him (John 12:42).
We, like they, are a culture deeply entrenched in conflict. This testifes that it is not the truth that rules us but personal desires – whether these desires be for political power, personal protection and prosperity, etc. When we fear the loss of something we hold very dear like the Pharisees and Pilot, we will ignore, deny or attempt to even kill the full disclosure of truth that is contrary. We will do this at a research-level, a discussion-level or even civil-law level all because we are desire-ruled and not humble truth seekers.
The COVID-19 culture has revealed our hedonistic foundation – a desire-over-truth approach that skews or even ignore contrary facts to satisfy our desires. The truth will either shape our desires or our desires will shape what we believe to be the truth (2 Timothy 4:3). As a result of our desire-ruled culture, coming on the heels of COVID’s first surge, George Floyd’s death led to a nation aflame. Cops are being injured or murdered (nine-hundred plus and counting). Cops are being defunded (One-billion dollars and counting in New York). This violence toward the police and reduction of police protection is based on magnifying the facts of true police sins against us while excluding and minimizing the facts of the police’s immeasurable heroics that have saved the lives of all of us. We are out of balance. A truth-oriented culture looks at both the positives and negatives and then seeks to improve or redeem, if possible – not destroy or vilify. Just as evil needs good people to remain silent, it needs good news to be stricken from the record. My wife said something the other day that I thought was very insightful. If a person can find nothing good in another to report, it reveals their bias. That may be a good rule of thumb to include every time we open our mouth in this conflict rich environment: be lavish and sincere where praise is due. If you can find nothing good in what President Obama or President Trump has done, but only bad, you are not seeking truth but hiding your bias – you are desire-ruled not truth-ruled.
The source of conflict is not the circumstances we find ourselves in, but our desires that rule within (James 4:1-4). When desire-ruled, we don’t want to hear any person or opposing facts that may contradict ours. It is a win at all costs that a desire-oriented culture creates (even if it leads to worse than we currently have). This is why we turn to violence and angry words (James 4:1-4) – we want our desires fulfilled at all costs. We can be ruled by a desire for good or bad – compassion, capitalism, tolerance, materialism, or even justice. But desire alone, for anything – even good things – other than the desire to please God, will lead to excess and destruction.
“How to apply this today”
Christian, I urge you to remain humble seekers of truth. Stabilize us as the light of the world and the salt of the earth. You are an Ambassador for Jesus Christ. Don’t exaggerate or quote statistics until you know the credibility, specificity and the necessity of sharing. Don’t let your quest for COVID facts or racist statistics (on one side or the other) monopolize your thoughts – let love and kind deeds for those around you rule your life (1 Cor 16:14). Above all, do not speak unwholesomely when disagreeing – if you grieve the Spirit (see Eph 4:29-30) and enter into conflict (which is different than having a civil, productive debate) you are aiding the enemy in his work of deceiving and dividing us (see 2 Timothy 2:24-26) and committing spiritual adultery (James 4:4). Don’t forget – in the end, God wins and he exalts the humble (James 4:10); the earth may give way, but the word of the Lord will stand forever (Ps 33:1). If you are on the side of seekers of truth – avoiding extremes (Prov 24:21); you are outnumbered but not outsources the Lord of hosts is with you. You are “out-smarted” because you, as Christ’s bride, are Satan’s target. He is scheming for your demise – “his craft and power are great and he is armed with cruel hate” – you and I wrestle against spiritual forces ultimately. But never forget that you are on the winning team even if in a temporary loss.
Have healthy, loving, humble, factual debate as needed, as an ambassador of Christ for the good of others. Let your voice be heard if it assists in promoting love for others and love for Christ in the issues at hand. But know when to put a period and let the Sovereign God speak to the heart. Listen humbly, so you demonstrate God’s willingness to hear our cry. Try to hold this world together as much as possible – even if you have to disagree and speak out because of conscience and responsibility. Seek the middle ground and compromise if at all possible according to Rom 12:18 and Eph 4:3.
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