For a year and a half, the world has been struggling against the coronavirus. Lockdowns. Vaccines. Facemasks. These words and issues are now pieces of our lexicon that we consider and debate in the new era. In the US, there have been more coronavirus-related deaths than American military deaths in World War I, World War II, and Vietnam combined.
By many accounts, the coming months will escalate the pandemic crisis even worse than the winter of 2020. In other words, when it comes to the pandemic, the worst may still be ahead of us, rather than behind us.
An Infectious Disease
Despite the scale of this historic crisis, there is a disease greater than the coronavirus spreading with it. It infects through social media, news outlets, and the vast array of echo chambers now common to our interconnected culture. It manifests in indomitable personal opinions, internalized anger, and heightened frustration. This disease severs relationships, hardens hearts, and blinds us to truths and values from the Word of God that we usually profess to believe.
The greater disease is the anger and division that the pandemic and political worldviews are helping to spread. These are the elements paralyzing our culture’s response to the pandemic. On the individual level, they isolate and divide people and escalate the process where the love of many is growing cold (Matthew 24:12). We say things on social media we rarely say to one another face to face, and our norms of civil behavior are evolving toward dangerous destinations.
As an example of the infectability of this disease, within this article, there are words and phrases about vaccines, mandates, lockdowns, and the coronavirus itself that I must exercise great caution when using. Careless employment of some words or phrases immediately triggers a response that provokes many readers to tune my words out. If I disagree with them, they will not listen. At the same time, others will use those same code words to tout their own agendas and perspectives. This is not civil behavior. It is a behavior rooted in division and heading dangerously fast toward conflict.
Ashamedly, this disease of anger and division has infected Christian believers as much as any carnal segment of unbelievers in our society. Church pulpits and individual believers broadcast as much division and anger as Fox News or CNN, even if their volume is not as loud. Our opinions or grasp of the “TRUE” facts has become more important than the bond of fellowship and brotherly love the Bible describes as the foundation of our Christian society.
Here is an example of a well-known Nashville pastor spreading the toxic disease of anger, fear and division within the church. This tantrum gained the pastor a lot of clicks on YouTube but did nothing to advance the Kingdom of God.
The Bible never says they will know you are Christians because you are right, for your science, or for your capacity to articulate the facts.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (NIV)
We are drifting, pulled along by the momentum of a social current of anger and division that ends in disaster.
Two Ways of Living
In Galatians 5, the Apostle Paul laid out two lists of manifested behavior, each originating from two different sources. The first is the works of the flesh; the second is the fruit of the Spirit. The evidence of these characteristics informs us which platform of life we are operating on – the flesh or the Spirit.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV)
Likely, not many reading this post can relate to the witchcraft and orgies portion of the list. That said, the items I emphasized in the quote above increasingly describe our society and our responses.
When I scroll through Facebook, I feel dissension, faction, discord, and occasionally even fits of rage – in my own heart! (Incidentally, I have limited my use of Facebook as a result.) When I watch the news or scroll through my Twitter feed, I see the hatred and the fits of rage. It would be easy to discount these observations as imbalances presented by the media and social media, except I feel them in my own heart and witness them in friends and loved ones.
Notice what Paul says about those who live from this platform – THOSE WHO LIVE LIKE THIS WILL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD (v. 21). Acting upon a platform of life and perspective that accommodates and provokes these characteristics disqualifies us from the Kingdom of God. Feel free to interpret what Paul means by “will not inherit the Kingdom of God,” but that is not a forecast I want to toy with for me or my home.
On the other hand, there is an alternative source of life made available to believers.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
This list describes who we are supposed to be, what our life is supposed to reflect and produce. These characteristics do not garner clicks and likes on social media, and they certainly won’t be highlighted by the talking heads on Fox News and CNN. But this way of life will deliver us from judgment and guilt. It will foster a culture of life in our homes and our churches, even our workplaces.
The life lived by the fruit of the Spirit does not arrive by default. It requires deliberate acts of our will to move toward the Spirit and way from the flesh.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:24-26 (NIV)
The disease of anger and division that is polarizing and paralyzing our generation is worse than COVID. It will not physically kill in most instances, but there is a spiritual death growing and spreading among individuals, families, and churches. That death is spreading subtly but faster than the coronavirus. Thankfully there is a vaccine. The vaccine is the life of the Spirit.
Four Personal Considerations
- When I respond to friends and loved ones regarding divisive issues today, am I elevating my opinion and being right above my value for that person? We are not required to agree, but the line between disagreement and division needs to be understood and respected.
- When I interact on social media, is it balanced to how I would interact in a face-to-face conversation? Am I giving too much freedom to my flesh on social media?
- Which is more important to me? Facts, my knowledge of the truth, my perspective – or the values of the Kingdom of God? Facts and my knowledge of the truth are on a constant journey of growth. The values of the Kingdom of God are eternal.
- Is there noise in my life that empowers the growth of the works of the flesh and at the same time suppresses the fruit of the Spirit in my life? What media or social media needs to be turned down or turned off, and what resources need to be turned on and up?