Wartime Spirit

At times of crisis we change our behaviour.  A crisis can bring out the best or the worst in us. Some people are selfish and even disobey authority for their own pleasure or personal gain. For others personal conflicts, tensions and even estrangement can pale into insignificance when we have a common ‘enemy’.  Priorities change. Such people are altruistic, selfless and self-sacrificing. This happened in World War 2 and it is happening during this Coronavirus pandemic.

It is not pleasant to have an enemy. They are at best rivals. They are not ‘on the same side’ and they are usually openly hostile. They threaten our well-being and even our lives. So it is shocking to read in the Bible that we are naturally ‘enemies’ of God.  How can this be? Of course, we can never be a threat to God’s existence, because He is the one who gives us life. Nor can we limit is power and knowledge, because He knows everything and nothing is too hard for Him. But we are, by natural instinct, opponents of God, ‘not on the same side’: disobedient. This would seem like a desperate predicament. We are powerless against Him.

And you who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 

Colossians 1:21

But such Bible passages about enemies are all about believers who have been transformed by their faith in Jesus Christ. They were enemies of God, but are now on God’s side. And in this honoured position they are guaranteed the love of Jesus (Romans 8:35-39).

This is all possible because of the ultimate act of selflessness. Jesus gave up his life on the cross to reconcile us to God (Romans 5:10). And this is the only way that we can be saved from our natural predicament.

We all have the common enemy of death. And because we all disobey God, we all die. But God promises that one day even this enemy will be taken away

The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.

1 Corinthians 15:26

 God has a plan for ‘His’ people: those who believe Him and follow Jesus. In the meantime we have still to work at not being His enemies. We have a fight to fight: the fight against our natural ungodly attitudes.

Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:13 (see also 1 Timothy 6:12)

This sounds impossible, but God has promised success to those who really believe and truly try to do what He asks. And we have a guidebook for this warfare, telling us what the true wartime spirit should be. The Bible.

The Real Meaning of Easter

Eastertime is here! A time of happiness, especially for children. In this current crisis our shops may be low on some essentials, but there have been plenty of chocolate eggs on the shelves. Eggs to bring joy. As long ago as Anglo-Saxon times (maybe even earlier) eggs were used to signify the end of winter and the happier time of spring. Symbols of new life springing forth. Hope!

Eggs have long been associated with Easter

Shortages in our shops is unusual. Not so elsewhere in the world. In some countries there can be threat of mass starvation, often caused by rain and drought. In these places there is much excitement when the rains eventually do come and the first crops appear. Despair turns to hope and the people celebrate these ‘firstfruits’; a sign of a harvest to come. The danger of perishing is much reduced.

‘Firstfruits’ are mentioned in the Bible, notably in the context of the resurrection of Jesus. He was crucified at the time of the Jewish celebration of Passover. This, like Easter, was in spring and its timing varied from year to year according to the lunar months. But, unlike any other person, he then rose from the dead to everlasting life. Never to die again.

“but now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep [died]” .

1 Corinthians 15:20

During the first Passover, the Hebrews had to paint the blood of a lamb on their door frames.

The resurrection of Jesus is a core belief of Christianity. It was the central message of the first century apostles. In fact, the whole of Christianity would be futile – utterly worthless and a waste of time – without the amazing resurrection of Jesus. This event is the world’s greatest wonder: mentioned dozens of times in the New Testament, and promised in the Old Testament. On the Sunday after the crucifixion the stone was rolled away from the tomb revealing no body. This was always part of God’s plan to save an otherwise dying world.

“Then Paul….reasoned with them from the scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying:

‘This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ’… because He [God] has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Acts 17:2,3,31

Christians have always believed in an after-life. Christ’s resurrection is the sure and true foundation of this hope. He rose from the dead. So can his followers. He is the ‘firstfruits’: believers are the full harvest.

“…in Christ shall all be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at his coming”

1 Corinthians 15:22, 23

In poorer countries the firstfruits give hope of extended life. Jesus’ resurrection to everlasting life is an even more important and hopeful ‘firstfruits’. We should be unspeakably grateful to God, and make sure we are truly “Christ’s at his coming”.

The Power of Touch

As humans we are naturally tactile. Touch is one of the 5 senses and we use it constantly.  When out shopping we squeeze fruit to see if it is ripe or run our hand across the fabric of an item of clothing to ascertain how it will feel when we wear it.  But we are also used to touching each other in social situations.  The business handshake, the loving hug or the greeting kiss.  In these times of social distancing we are being encouraged not to go within 6 feet never mind embrace our friends or family.  In fact currently the only physical contact we are likely to have is with the people we are in isolation with, and if we are on our own, then we may not feel the embrace of another human being for many months.

Jesus used touch throughout his ministry.  We read about when he was healing a blind person “…Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him.”* (Matt 20:34).  In another incident an ill woman knew that “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” (Matt 9:21).    Ultimately Jesus was betrayed by touch as we read how “His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” (Matt 28:48).

So, what comfort can we draw from the Bible in these trying times? Well the writer of Ecclesiastes, (traditionally thought be King Solomon, one of wisest men ever to live) wrote that is “A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;” (Ecc 3:5).  Never before has that reference been as pointed as it is now! But what we see is that, if we are living through a time where we are “refraining from embracing” then there will be a time again when we will be free to embrace again.

The Bible is full of references to “The Kingdom of God”.  A time when this earth will be transformed from the disease-ridden place it is now, to one of peace, health and joy.  We may feel that God has forsaken his creation, but the Bible shows us that this is just a temporary state and soon it will pass.  Ultimately the world that we will live in will be much better than what went before.

Why not read the Bible, to find out more? 

*All quotes from the NKJV