Applying It To Our Lives
It is common to hear this sentiment in prayers after a sermon: “Lord, we thank brother so-and-so for the lesson, and help us apply it to our lives.” That is a valid supplication; it is imperative to conform our lives to scriptural truth. But real-life applications can be complex and difficult. Thus I fear the phrase has likely become a cliché. We may verbalize the principle, but far too often the sermon – and our good intentions – fade by the end of lunch on Sunday afternoon.
It is easy to consider scripture in a “sterile” environment and feel confident about its moral and spiritual significance. In the absence of emotion or the weight of responsibility, we may oversimplify the application of a principle. Our convictions are tested until a rigorous or tricky situation comes along. How do we apply what we know in this situation?
Many of us are facing this very challenge with the coronavirus and its impact on our worship. On the one hand, we can discuss the implications of Romans 13:1-7 (“Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God.”) and Acts 5:29 (“We ought to obey God rather than men.”) and conclude something like this: “We are to be subject to civil authorities unless the law of man is in opposition to the law of God. If there is a conflict, we should always obey God’s law above man’s law.” Close the book; end of the discussion.
But what happens when a viral pandemic strikes and there is the potential for widespread sickness and death? Consequently, the government places us under public health restrictions (not persecution) that prohibit worship assemblies. What do we do when on the one hand we have the Lord’s command to observe His memorial supper together on Sunday and on the other hand doing so would endanger those with compromised health, potentially spread disease and label us as apathetic scofflaws?
Does the decision to suspend worship have any bearing at all on civil law, or is it just a public health consideration? Should we flout the law prohibiting group gatherings if we decide on our own that the threat of infection has substantially subsided? How do we handle two conflicting spiritual principles (observing the Lord’s supper versus love for our neighbor)?
I’ll be honest: I never envisioned such a scenario occurring in my lifetime. If someone would have told me in early March that we would soon have a 12-Sunday hiatus from worshiping together, I would have suggested they see a therapist. Consistent, wise applications of scriptural principle in such situations are extremely difficult.
On a secular level, we’ve seen the most educated and politically powerful people in the land struggle with policy. Further, churches and elders have altered their practices to accommodate the flurry of changing conditions.
One of the main threats of our current crisis is disharmony among Christians. This is because “applying it to our lives” may take us way out of our comfort zone. We may be called upon by the elders or the decision of the group to entertain something jarring to our previous assumptions. Let us pray. Let us honestly examine our convictions. Let us be patient with each other and allow for personal conscience. Let us support elders who are trying to balance a dozen spinning plates. And let us not be quick to censure others from a distance.
Truly, “applying it to our lives” is a lot easier when we don’t have to face the consequences of our decisions.