Much of the world is living with restrictions because of coronavirus. Like many others, I’ve struggled with all of this. Every time guidelines/restrictions are added or changed, it takes time for me to process them and adjust. I’ve seen myself go through some classic stages of grief: denial, anger, depression…I haven’t really bargained because there is no bargaining. And I wouldn’t say I’ve accepted things either. But one day at a time, one foot in front of the other…so it goes. (I know, I’m preaching to the choir).
Washington State, where I live, has a phased re-opening plan. My county is in a phase where churches can begin to hold in-person services again, provided certain requirements are met. As I read through the requirements the other day, I became increasingly frustrated. I stopped to pray. Several times, I said to the Lord, “I FEEL SO PUT UPON!” The Lord answered with Matthew 5:41–“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.”
I am still pondering how this verse works out in my situation. When Jesus said it, Roman soldiers could require people to do tasks for them at any time. This is what happened to Simon of Cyrene. He was going about his day, attending to whatever business he had in Jerusalem, when Roman soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’s cross (Matt. 27:32). This is stunning to someone in America where individual rights are protected. No one, not police, not the army, not even the President, can stop me and require me to do something for them. But this was common enough in the time of Jesus that He used it as a spiritual object lesson.
Next, my mind turned to Jesus’s birth. Joseph and Mary (who was VERY pregnant) were required to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem so they could be counted in a census. (Incidentally, it is a census year in the United States. I completed a census form for my household at my kitchen table over the internet).
I hadn’t penciled it out before, but Nazareth is about 96 miles from Bethlehem. NINETY-SIX MILES. No cars, no planes…maybe a donkey. Such a journey would’ve taken DAYS on foot. This hardship was imposed on the holy family simply because Caesar wanted to up his taxpayer funded windfall.
But behind all this government imposition and taxation, God had a purpose. That purpose was to bring forth His Son. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and God fulfilled one of His many words about the Messiah (as recorded in scripture).
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Washington’s Governor Inslee, President Trump, and all these other government people think they’re in charge. They’re not. OK, OK. They have their own levels of authority and responsibility. But God is ultimately in charge, and His purpose in the Son is over every other.
Today, I am encouraged that God calls the shots according to His purpose of bringing forth the Son. That purpose is the same, yesterday, today, and forever because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Regardless of what people and leaders do, I trust God and His purpose in His Son. Regardless of what seems to be driving events today, God’s eternal goals are preeminent.
Coronavirus restrictions are far less onerous than being commanded to walk 96 miles for the Emperor’s fund raiser. Still, I am being forced to walk a mile, and the Lord asks me to go two so that He can bring forth Christ in me, the church, and this world. For that purpose, I can go three miles. (Though I hope two takes care of it).
Patience and faith, saints!