What can a first-century Roman centurion teach us about adapting to life during the pandemic? Lots.
Image by Ginosphotos via Megapixl
Among the many feelings and frustrations during the Coronavirus and the preventive measures is the feeling of being stuck and powerless, especially if we want to get out there and be of some help to someone somewhere. We can’t travel for missions and outreach and we can’t gather in large groups for ministry.
The story of the centurion’s faith in Matthew 8:5-13 should remind us that social distancing, travel bans or limiting group sizes, none of these prevents or limits God’s miraculous power. And hopefully, this gives us a bit of hope.
A centurion (a military leader, like a captain today) comes to ask Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant, who is lying at home. Jesus offers to go to the centurion’s home to heal him, and the centurion says: “Lord, I do not deserve to have You come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
His reply shows his understanding that Jesus doesn’t have to be there physically to perform the miracle. Jesus commends his faith and says to him, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.”
Prayer is powerful. I know this may seem like the most rudimentary kid’s Sunday School lesson. But maybe during this time of the pandemic, at a time when we feel powerless or limited, we need to be reminded about the power of prayer.
Praying in faith and knowing that our prayers are not limited by geography or distance remind us that it’s really not about us. If Jesus didn’t need to be physically present to help someone, then we don’t have to either. Our prayers bond us with God’s will to move His hand to work in the lives of others to help them, heal them and save them.
Praying in faith also reminds us to think of others, which can help us avoid spiralling downward if we’re too focused on ourselves only.
In this season when we are limited in travel, keep your intercessory prayer life strong. Check-in with your friends and family and ask how you can pray for them.
The key ingredient in all this is faith. This is what astonished Jesus about the centurion’s attitude (“I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.”)
Let’s pray for others and for our city with a centurion’s faith.
When was the last time you awakened early in the morning with fresh eyes and a beaming smile, ready for the day with a full and expectant heart? “I would love to have that feeling…”, you perhaps think to yourself, “…maybe when I was eight years old…?”.
I think you’re right; when you were a kid, when you were not weighed down from the many cares in your heart, true? The big things in life were all taken care of. A single lick of ice-cream can make it a beautiful day!
Jesus said in Matthew 18:3, unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of God! With our belief in Jesus Christ comes the willingness and the need to turn (repent) AND become like little children!
When you think of being a child, these words might come into your mind: ignorant, naive, immature, unwise etc, although these characteristics could be partly true, here in Matthew 18:3, Jesus is talking about being like of a child; willing to play with everyone - loving! Not holding a grudge - forgiving! Following whatever the parents say (well most of the time) - being trusting!
I remember my oldest son Ryan when he was 3 years old, one day I took him to the pool and standing inside I asked him to jump to me, (he didn’t know how to swim then), at first he was a bit hesitant, but after a little bit of reassurance, he ran with his little feet and launched forward fixing his eyes on me with a bright smile! I caught him with ease, he was safe and enjoyed experiencing joy and laughter that day!
Jesus is instructing us to turn away from our old way of life; not loving, not forgiving, not trusting in Him. Unless we turn and become childlike, we will not be free from bitterness, anxiousness and the lack of security in life. Jesus wants us to be care-free, have true joy and experiencing the Kingdom of heaven right here, right now.
Would you pray & ask God to show you how?
As amusement parks began opening again in Japan the last couple of weeks, there was one video and headline that stole the show. The Fuji-Q Highland amusement park posted a video of two executives riding the death-defying Fujiyama roller coaster. Following the new safety protocol of no screaming to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, the executives stoically plunged 70 meters without an utterance.
Apparently proving it was possible, the video ended with this message: “Please scream inside your heart.”
Haha, wouldn’t that be awesome if we could all do that?! Not just when plunging from the sky, but how about when emotions are racing, stress and anxiety are high, or frustration starts to settle in. I’d love to have the composure to measure my words carefully, display a serene face, and then scream inside my heart.
I know a lot of us have probably wanted to scream at some point over the past months. And it’s necessary we have healthy outlets for our God-given emotions, such as exercise, journaling or prayer. Yet, in such a tense season, we also need to honestly consider what it is we are bringing into our relationships. Consider these words from Paul…
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3
We may forget this in the mundane of the day-to-day, but we have a privileged calling as children of God! Therefore, it’s really important we “make every effort to keep the unity,” something the Spirit of God inside of us is always working towards.
So for a little self-examination, here’s a straightforward checklist extracted from the end of Ephesians 4 that will help us practice living a life that’s in alignment with our calling.
We are to:
do away with false words and speak the truth - v.25
not sin when we are angry - v. 26
keep unwholesome talk out of our mouths - v. 29
give grace by building each other up with our words - v. 29
put away bitterness, rage and slander - v. 31
be kind and tenderhearted - v. 32
forgive others as we were forgiven by God - v. 32
I like to ride the tram. Not because it’s cheap, efficient or relaxing. Quite the contrary, I never seem to find a seat and it takes almost an hour to get from Quarry Bay to Central during rush hour. I like to ride the tram though because it forces me to slow down.
There is an epidemic of busyness in Hong Kong. Every minute must be utilised to the fullest degree because time is precious. Time is the only finite resource, which means that it cannot be earned back in any way. So we try to maximise it by scheduling our calendars down to the very minute.
When I arrived in Hong Kong a few months ago, a friend gave me a very peculiar piece of advice. He told me, “ride the tram whenever you can, you won’t regret it, bro.” So I took his advice to heart and I began riding the tram every day. In the beginning, I was quite annoyed at how much time I had to make for myself to commute to work because a 10-minute commute turned into a 30-minute commute. However as I diligently committed to slowing down my commute, I found that I was unintentionally eliminating haste from my life.
“Desire without knowledge is not good - how much more will hasty feet miss the way!” - Proverbs 19:2
Hastiness means to do something so quickly that it leads to mistakes. We often live our entire lives with hastiness, and we end up missing God. This proverb also insinuates that the root of our hastiness comes from our desires; desires which have not been combined with knowledge. These are our impulsive desires, things that we really want from the spur of the moment.
The thing is, many of us live our lives for what is immediately in view: the next deadline, the next promotion, the next vacation, etc. In so doing we cultivate a life of extreme busyness and emptiness because we never give ourselves the time to think through the big picture of our lives and what God actually wants for us. So I intentionally eliminate hurry in my life by taking the slowest possible commute. Doing so has freed me from the constant rat race of busyness and has allowed me to hear God’s voice better.
So my challenge to you is this: take the tram.
The word “cancel” has taken on a whole new meaning in the last few years. It seems that with our social media presence and the fact that tweets, status updates, and messages don’t get deleted, people can “go back in time” and find something that someone has said and bring it back into the spotlight. Sometimes, what people have done in the past causes them to get “cancelled”. We see this a lot with some celebrities these days. Careers have ended because of a transgression.
I don’t want to argue for or against the idea of “cancelling” someone over something they’ve said or done. But I do want to think about this concept.
Is it OK just to write someone off because of an indiscretion?
While it is important to hold people accountable for their actions, and rebuke people where necessary, I do believe that we Christians are called to a higher standard. Why? Because Jesus gives us the perfect example of how to deal with people who have been “cancelled”.
Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The reality we all need to see is that we are all sinners. Every single one of us has made mistakes or done things that we’re not proud of. And even still, Christ died for us. But what if He had given up on us? What if He would have just said, “These people are just too sinful.”? Where would we be now?
We should rejoice daily at the fact that Jesus did not give up on us!
But even more, we are called to go the extra mile for our brothers and sisters. In the letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul encourages us to help restore our friends who have been caught in transgressions. He says, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
What He’s saying is that if we help to carry the weight of the transgression of our neighbours, then we will fulfil the law of Christ. And what is the “law of Christ”? It is to love God and love our neighbours as ourselves. We fulfil the law of Christ by not “cancelling” others, but by loving others and carrying their burdens.
So remember, none of us are perfect. We all have sinned. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And because of that, we should love God, love others, and carry each other’s burdens.