The early Church suffered from a pandemic of persecution. (Acts 8:1,4; 11:19-21). In 2020 and 2021, the Church suffered from a literal pandemic of Covid-19. We can learn wisdom for today by applying wisdom from the early Church when a “pandemic” of persecution struck them. Now is the time to spread the good news about Jesus to people and places who haven’t heard about Jesus or who haven’t fully understood what they’ve heard about Jesus. Now is the time to end the raging pandemic of arguing, fearing, hating, and canceling.
The early Church suffered from a pandemic of persecution. (Acts 8:1,4; 11:19-21).
This pandemic of persecution began when Stephen was stoned. He had made an inflammatory speech to the Sanhedrin, the same Jewish ruling council that had condemned Jesus. (Acts 6:8-7:58; Matthew 26:57-68).
As the mob stoned him, Stephen said, “Lord [Jesus], do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60).
The Book of Acts tells us what happened next.
“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” (Acts 8:1).
“Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (Acts 8:4).
“Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, . . . went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11:19-21).
In 2020 and 2021, the Church suffered from a literal pandemic of Covid-19.
We can learn wisdom for today by applying wisdom from the early Church when a “pandemic” of persecution struck them.
They did not seek revenge. They forgave those who persecuted them.
Wherever persecuted people went, they preached the good news about the Lord Jesus.
They went to new places. They traveled far from Jerusalem!
They began to speak to new types of people who were not Jews. They spoke to Greeks!
How can we apply this Pandemic Wisdom today?
First, we should avoid blaming people.
Instead, we should forgive people.
We should say, as Stephen prayed about those who stoned him, “Do not hold this against them.” (Acts 7:60).
We should say, as Jesus prayed about those who crucified him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34).
Forgiving people is not only the morally right thing to do (Matthew 6:12,14-16). Forgiving people is the wise thing to do.
Playing the “blame game” distracts us from the urgent work at hand. We need to focus all of our energies on saving lives and restoring lives.
This is a time to forget what lies behind, and to press on toward what lies ahead. (Philippians 3:13-14).
This doesn’t mean we should forget the wisdom or medical knowledge gained during the Pandemic.
But it does mean that we should not be distracted by dwelling on what happened in the past. The past is past!
Do not distract and divide people today by arguing about who was wrong in the past.
Instead, together we should seek wisdom and work together to improve the future! (Galatians 2:1-10).
By continuing the innovations that worked. We’ve learned how to use technology to reach and serve new people in new ways.
Some of these ways may no longer make sense as the Pandemic subsides. Others will be permanent improvements.
For example, in the Pandemic, I received hair cuts for free from a family member. They cut my hair OK. But not nearly as well as a professional. As soon as the hair salons re-opened, I resumed having professional hair cuts.
Similarly, for most purposes, it is better to meet in person than to meet on a monitor.
Nevertheless, I hope we continue to use the internet to reach people who are unable to attend in person. The reasons will vary. Distance. Health. Work schedules.
Perhaps even more important than having the wisdom to know which traditions to resume and which innovations to keep, is to know which things to “crucify”—which things to remove from our lives because they are sins that easily entangle us and they are temptations that lead us astray. (Hebrews 12:1-3).
For example, during the Pandemic, I stopped coloring my hair a light brown as if I were still in college. To my surprise, my “sincere” white hair looks better than my “hypocritical” brown hair.
During the Pandemic, each of us gave up things. It will be good to do some of them again as soon as feasible.
For example, we are eager to return to Disneyland next week with our 6-year old grandson and his family.
But other habits and traditions are best ended—like stopping the “hypocrisy” of hiding my white hair.
Most of all, the Pandemic enabled us to hear and understand, see and perceive, how calloused our hearts had become in “the good old days”.
Too often, we didn’t understand and perceive the many ways that other people have been treated unfairly here in the United States and around the world.
Too often, planks of hypocrisy in our own eyes kept us from understanding and perceiving.
Too often, hypocrisy distracted us so that we talked far more about specks in other people’s eyes than we worked to remove the planks in our own eyes.
Too often, we didn’t understand and perceive how much we loved to work, until we could no longer work.
Too often, we didn’t understand and perceive how much we loved our friends and families, until we could no longer meet them in person.
Too often, we didn’t understand and perceive how much we loved our friends and families until they died.
Now is the time to end our hypocrisy.
Now is the time to understand and perceive the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:20-21,27).
Now is the time to put into practice all the words of Jesus. (Matthew 7:24-8:3).
Now is the time to spread the good news about Jesus to people and places who haven’t heard about Jesus or who haven’t fully understood what they’ve heard about Jesus.
Now is the time to spread the love of Jesus to new people, fulfilling the good news that the LORD speaks through Isaiah:
“Seek the LORD while he may be found:
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”
We must not limit spreading this good news to only those who have already heard and believed.
In the early church, this meant spreading the good news to the Greeks as well as to the Jews.
Today, this will mean spreading the good news to those who we argue with.
To those we fear.
To those we hate.
To those people, communities of wisdom, nations, and cultures who we have cancelled.
Today, this will mean ending the raging pandemic of arguing, fearing, hating, and canceling.
By removing planks of hypocrisy from our own eyes. (Matthew 7:3-5).
By changing our thoughts. By changing our ways.
How do we know that the LORD wants us to change our thoughts and to change our ways by spreading his love to ALL people? How do we know that the LORD doesn’t want us to cancel any person, community of wisdom, nation, or culture?
Because the LORD himself declares to us through the Prophet Isaiah:
“[M]y thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways . . ..
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
The LORD has the same role for us as the role he had for the persecuted early church—spreading the good news about the thoughts and ways of Jesus that embody the thoughts and ways of the LORD.
When we spread this good news about Jesus to new people—even people who we argued with, feared, hated, and canceled—we will enjoy the same successes as the early church did.
The LORD’s hand will be with us. And a great number of people will believe and turn to the LORD. (Acts 11:21).
For the LORD himself has promised us:
“As the rain and snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread
for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
And what does the LORD desire after a pandemic of persecution, disease or cancellation ends?
What is his purpose?
What do I desire—and what is my purpose—while at Disneyland?
The same desire and purpose that result from hearing and understanding every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (Deuteronomy 8:3):
“You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all of the trees will clap their hands.
To read about the special meaning that Isaiah 55:12 has for me (and for my Houghton College classmates in the Class of ‘77), please read my book Lighting the World, at pages 183-184.
For more of my thoughts about hypocrisy, please read my blogs “Hypocrisy: Specks and Planks”, “Nathan ‘Kills’ the Hypocrisy of David”, “Hypocrisy: Calloused Hearts”, and “Hypocrisy: Taking Away What You Gave”.
For more Pandemic Wisdom, please read my blogs “Pandemic Wisdom: Straining at the Oars”, “Pandemic Wisdom: Meditating”, “Fear Not the Pestilence That Stalks in the Darkness”, “Holding Your Hand, Hearing Your Voice”, “Pandemic Wisdom: The Faith of My Father”, “The Baby Jesus ‘Vaccine’ Is Coming”, “Irresistible Hurricanes of the Holy Spirit”, “Pandemic Wisdom: Feeding Multitudes”, “Pandemic Wisdom: Multiple Choice Exams & No-Win-Scenarios”, “Trusting the LORD Will Provide”, “Getting Out of Your Tent”, “LORD Willing”, “Pandemic Wisdom: Visions of America”, “Pandemic Wisdom: Hear and See, Understand and Perceive”, “Pandemic Wisdom: Praying and Waiting”, “Pandemic Wisdom: Festive Throngs”, “Pandemic Wisdom: Hezekiah”, and “Pandemic Wisdom: Paul Under House Arrest”.