Tired of being house-bound? Enviously watching re-runs of “The Great Escape” and wishing you were Steve McQueen fleeing the prison camp on his iconic motorcycle? Living under virtual house arrest is, well, surreal. On the upside, what a boon to have quality time with the family. And to fix things around the house and clear out the clutter. There’ll never be a better opportunity to sort out all our accumulated possessions…or our priorities.
When I think of “house arrest,” the apostle Paul’s two years under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28) comes to mind, and I’m suddenly shamed by the contrast. While I’ve busied myself purging old files and getting organized, Paul used his confinement as an opportunity to invite Jewish leaders into his house to proclaim to them the good news of Christ. Putting aside our current inability to invite folks into our homes, I can’t help but reflect on my priorities during this providential pause. As Paul’s outreach attests, God’s work is about saving, not just lives, but souls. During his time on earth, Jesus did not heal everyone who was physically sick—something he unquestionably had the power to do. On this side of deathless heaven, the pandemic of sin-sick souls was of most concern to the Great Physician. Headline: Infinitely more souls are at risk of death—eternal death—than are at risk from coronavirus.
We are rightly concerned about the dying. But how concerned are we for those who are dying spiritually? If we’re brutally honest, pitifully little. In church, we may talk about “the spiritually lost” and our need to evangelize the world. Yet, we seem to have lost a sense of spiritual lostness. Do you not find it interesting that “Amazing Grace” has become the coronavirus anthem? Flip through the channels, and everyone’s singing it! But has anyone stopped to seriously think about those classic words by John Newton: “I once was lost but now am found”? Newton’s beloved hymn is not about recovery from coronavirus, but about salvation from sin! About rescue from hell! Breaking News: Genuine concern about either salvation or hell is in as much short supply these days as PPE and ventilators.
Is it possible that, in a non-judgmental era, even we Christians have become closet universalists, believing that a loving God will surely save everyone but child-abusers and Hitler? If so, what’s the point of evangelizing? Or is it that, unlike John Newton, the converted slave trader, we have no compelling “lost-and-found” story to tell? If we were raised by Christian parents and “saved” at an early age, could it be that we were baptized but not converted? Having no personal life-changing conversion story like Paul’s dramatic Damascus Road encounter, small wonder we aren’t on fire with the good news. More alarming, could it be that we’ve become so assimilated into a secular culture that we’ve succumbed to that other coronavirus anthem: John Lennon’s “Imagine”? In this global moment, I appreciate the desire to “imagine that all the world is one,” but what part does God’s amazing grace play—much less evangelism—if it’s “easy to imagine there’s no heaven, no hell, and no religion too”? Coronavirus is not the only invisible enemy.
While we’re all hunkered down, we could do with some serious soul-searching about soul searching. Countless lost souls need to be found! If the discovery of a vaccine will be heralded as good news, salvation from eternal death is inestimably better news. With so many people in this crisis seeking spiritual answers, what greater opportunity could there possibly be to talk about escape from sin’s captive confinement…and about a home we’ll never want to leave!