King David had committed the most horrendous sin. He’d taken and violated Bathsheba. He’d then had her husband murdered under the cover of battle. His sin will have been an open secret. Even as he sought desperately to cover it up, he drew others into his sin. Why didn’t they speak up? I suspect fear of David would have played a big part. Perhaps others thought that now wasn’t the time to confront. The nation had been through a terrible set back with the lost of a heroic commander.
One person, courageously steps in. God sends the prophet Nathan to speak to David. He uses a parable initially of a man who abuses his wealth and power. When David is morally outraged and calls for the sinner to be appropriately punished, Nathan the prophet says:
“You are the man.”
The other day, I engaged with some comments from Marcus Honeysett about young pastors and preachers. His conclusion to his twitter thread was this.
I am in broad agreement with Marcus. So many people in our churches have been drained, bruised and wounded. The pandemic is one cause of this but it’s not the only one. In fact, for many churches and Christians, the pandemic simple exacerbated and exposed what was already there. I know of too many Christians and churches who have been suffering from spiritual PTSD because of the abusive and bullying behaviour of others towards them.
The last thing they need is a telling off. Sadly, I know of some churches and Christians who have experienced just that. Those people needed what Marcus speaks of:
“a captivating, consoling, comforting encounter with a God who loves them”
In fact, I lean towards the assumption that this should be our default. However, the point of a default position is that we return to it but we don’t always stay in it.
Sadly, the reality is that there were those who were causing deep distress and pain to the body. Some of them even used the pandemic intentionally or unintentionally to inflict further pain. This included those who stirred up division, accusing those churches that complied with Government lockdown measures of compromise. Some even slipped into promoting conspiracy theories. There were others who stoked up fear of the pandemic and undermined efforts of churches to encourage people to regather even at the point when it was clearly and objectively safe to do.
There were people who stayed home because that was the best advice, there were people who did so and are still doing so out of genuine fear and anxiety. Those people desperately need captivating, consoling and comforting if they are to be drawn back in. However, there are also those who have become complacently comfortable, for whom the pandemic has given excuse to drop back or drop out, to check out physically, emotionally and/or spiritually.
This means that whilst our default approach is “captivating, consoling, comforting” there are those who need to be told “You are the man (or woman).”
However, one thing is constant, whatever the tone and content of the message. Everyone needs an encounter with the living God.