We probably are not quite out of the woods yet with the COVID-19 pandemic. The encouraging news is that we have fully vaccinated over 50% of the adult population and over 75% have received at least one dose. However, there are other pressures that are not such good news. First of all, the “Delta” (Indian) variant seems to spread more rapidly than other variants and also carries a greater risk of hospitalisation. Secondly, there is a mutation in one of the spikes that has been present in the South African variant and now is appearing occasionally with the Delta variant which is much more resistant to the vaccines available. We know that with that mutation there is less vaccine efficacy although it is hoped that risk of serious disease and death is still reduced.
However, those factors mean there is still potential for the virus to do a lot of harm. This is why we there are conversations going on about us possibly seeing a delay to the complete lifting of restrictions in the UK at the end of June.
I have already written about how we should approach the next stages of return to normal and how to respond to the possible extension of restrictions previously. In this article I want to return to the question of why we comply with restrictions as Christians.
Throughout the pandemic I have frequently heard the suggestion that believers should not worry about the prospects of dying from the virus because that would suggest fear and a lack of faith. We know that when we die, we will be with the Lord and that is better by far. Of course we as believers have this hope and yet in so many respects, this does not lead to us being reckless in life. We still wear seat belts, seek to eat, drink and exercise healthily, go to the doctor and look left and right before we cross the road. I might also add that there is often a little bit too much caution when it comes to the risks associated with sharing our faith – but that is for another time.
Why, if we believe that death does not have the last word, are we so careful with respect to it? Well in the past, we’ve tended to make the following points
- We want to be good witnesses by being seen to be responsible in our behaviour as good citizens.
- We recognise our responsibility towards others, not everyone has had the opportunity to respond to the good news yet.
- It is not just about avoiding death and serious illness for ourselves, we recognise that there is a cost to others in terms of the health care we might need and the distress our suffering might cause.
All of that is true but I want to push us a step further in our thinking. I think sometimes we can end up talking as though life here and now does not matter, something to be endured until we go to heaven. Yet, that doesn’t seem to be how Scripture approaches life on earth in the present. Rather Scripture sees life as something to be enjoyed and to be protected and preserved.
It seems to me, that it is exactly because we have the hope of resurrection and eternal life to come that life now is worthy of enjoyment and protection. Think about it, if we are just randomly evolved gene machines and if death is the end then life isn’t worth living or preserving. If I’m just here by chance for a few floating moments then all the things I believe about myself, that I have purpose, that I have feelings, that I love and hate, laugh and cry, are all just myths and stories. We are attempting to put meaning onto mechanical processes and chemical reactions.
Eternity gives meaning to time now. God has chosen to create me, to love me and to place me in this life now. There is a reason for that and the reason is so that I can enjoy him, glorify him and praise him. I’ve been made to love him and to love others here on earth now. He has created this world and one of its purposes is to provide us with joy and blessing now. If that were not so, then God could just skip the mortal life on earth bit and take us to the next level immediately.
Eternity has implications for life now and furthermore, life now has implications for eternity. When you look at the New Testament and especially the parables, this comes through loud and clear. We are not saved by our works but we are saved for good works and we will be held accountable for this. Therefore, the NT talks in terms of reward as the master looks at what the faithful servants have done with their talents and addresses them “well done, good and faithful servant.”
Because there is eternity ahead, I won’t need to cling on with fear when my final day comes and I don’t have to spend my life trying to find ways of avoiding death completely. However at the same time, nor do I need to rush through life seeking to get it over and done with like a child forcing down their greens in order to get to dessert. Rather I can enjoy the life I have been given now whilst at the same time looking forward to eternity.