~ by guest blogger, Scotty Park
As a police officer I am frequently thrown into situations that are unpredictable, unsafe, and impossible to plan for; and yet I still have an obligation to resolve the conflict, stop the bad guy, and protect the vulnerable, all while being professional and courteous. In a similar way, as Christians in a secular society we often find ourselves in circumstances and conversations beyond our control, usually involving some level of conflict. Yet, scripture still compels us to act in a way that brings God glory and proclaims the gospel to the unreached. From lockdowns/restrictions to civil unrest and everything in between, 2020 brought many of these circumstances and conversations to the forefront.
My goal with this article is not to solve our problems or outline any opinions on the many issues dividing our society these days. Like everyone else, I have my opinions on just about everything going on, but that’s all they are, opinions. And the thing I’ve learned about opinions is that with time and/or more information, they can (and sometimes should) change. My lack of any formal education or experience in medicine, virology/immunology, or infectious disease, excludes me from providing any intellectual insight into what the proper protocol is here. A few clicks on the internet and consuming endless hours of YouTube hardly certifies me to decide what does (or doesn’t) justify a pandemic. So, with that said, my goal here is to remind myself and others about what is of most importance.
So, what is of most importance?
Fortunately, the Bible outlines what our purpose as Christians here on earth is so little guesswork or “googling” is necessary. When asked what the greatest commandment is in Mark 12:29-31 Jesus says: “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Loving God, obeying His commandments and bringing Him glory is priority number one as Christians. Second, is loving our neighbour. Later on in Jesus’ ministry in Matthew 28:19 He commissions the disciples (and us) to “go and make disciples of all nations”. What better way to love your neighbour than to share with them the eternally beneficial good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection and what that means for us as sinful people.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there’s no merit to informing ourselves on current events or even formulating and expressing opinions on them. I’m also certainly not saying there isn’t a time for healthy and constructive criticism of our government. In fact, I think it is a necessary part of what contributes to a democratic society. What I am saying, is that I believe we need to conduct a sort of “spiritual triage”, discerning what is most imminently important and filtering our actions and speech through that. As a police officer, when I am first to arrive at a car accident, I have to assess the scene and in order of importance:
1. Determine possible imminent safety risks for the public and other first responders and address them accordingly
2. Triage patients and begin first aid based on who is most in need
3. Ensure the proper emergency services have been dispatched like EMS or Fire
4. Investigate the cause of the collision, who was driving? was their ability to operate a vehicle impaired by any alcohol, substance, or medical conditions? were they driving properly? was the mechanical fitness of their vehicle compliant with regulations outlined in the Highway Traffic Act? etc.
If I do anything out of order, people can die. If I arrive on scene and start doing first aid on a minor arm injury while ignoring the 1,000-pound. moose with brain worm still trying to crawl its way into oncoming traffic, then another driver can hit it and be injured or even die. If I arrive on scene and start asking a driver about how many drinks they’ve had that day while they bleed out from shattered glass in their neck I’m not addressing what’s imminently important. I’m not triaging my responsibilities and it’s having devastating impacts. Those examples sound absurd when you think about it. Surely its common sense to concern myself first with saving someone’s life before demanding they provide a breath sample to determine any level of impairment.
In the same way, we need to determine what needs to be done or said in these unplanned circumstances and conversations and triage by importance.
So back to Jesus’ words in Mark 12. I believe everything we do and say should be filtered through our duty to bring God glory and to point unbelievers to Christ.
But is that really what we did in 2020?
When I think back to my actions and conversations over the last year, I find myself disappointed at my use of time and wasted opportunities. In seasons of blessing and in seasons of trials God gives us opportunities to bring Him glory, grow in our faith, and spread the gospel. If I’m honest with myself, I did not take advantage of the unique opportunities that were given to me in 2020. I think most of us are probably guilty of this in some way or another.
When the adrenaline starts to wear off after an intense call at work, I like to go over what happened and what I did to see if any improvements can be made the next time I find myself in a similar situation. Should I have removed that weapon from within the suspect’s reach sooner? Was I compassionate enough to that victim of sexual abuse in order to help them heal but also open up and provide me with a statement? Did I triage the victims of that car accident properly? I feel like we can do a similar exercise to assess how we used 2020 to glorify God and spread the Gospel and therefore hopefully use our time and resources more wisely in 2021.
Did my concern for the mental health of my fellow citizens stop at my Facebook post outlining my criticism of the government? Or have I used circumstances outside of my control (lockdowns/restrictions) to proclaim the truth found in scripture that, above all, Christ is the only thing that will satisfy the human heart. The only person capable of healing the mind is the one who created it. Did I put words into action and reach out to local ministries/organizations to find out where they have need and where I can help?
Am I satisfied that by following restrictions I’ve “done my part” to help society? While there is no doubt merit and obligation to do our part to help the greater good of those around us in physical ways, have I been neglecting the spiritual needs of those around me?
While our culture’s current attitude toward government (and anyone who disagrees with whatever our opinion on current events is for that matter) is often negative and sometimes downright hostile, did I show Christ-like patience toward those in positions of authority? Did I spend my conversations in echo chambers of fruitless criticism, or did I resolve to pray for those in authority as Paul advises in 1 Timothy 2:1-4? I think if we’re honest with ourselves, most of us do not possess the ability to graciously articulate our concerns with government policy and action in a way that both humbly communicates our thoughts and also brings glory to God. If you do feel you possess this gift I would suggest that writing to your local member of parliament outlining your concerns and thanking them for their leadership as well as letting them know you are praying for them is likely to bring about more change and more glory to God than posting every thought and criticism on social media.
Are my conversations spent complaining about things outside of my control or have I displayed a stoic trust in God’s sovereignty over all things? May we show those around us that we have the peace found in Christ as Paul writes in Philippians 4:6-7 “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Did I use my platform on social media to share articles supporting one opinion or another on the effectiveness of masks or how our rights and freedoms are being infringed? Or should I be sharing articles about the ultimate freedom found in Christ to point my unbelieving neighbours and coworkers heavenward and to edify fellow believers. Let us build up the church and in so doing equip her to bring glory to God and spread the Good News.
Let me be clear, I failed miserably in all of these and a few more too. I’m ashamed to admit that I let myself get distracted from what is really important. I did not do any “spiritual triage” and I just hope that by resolving to be better in the days and months ahead that I can better serve the God who has blessed me with so much.
So Lord, equipping me with your power, bring on 2021!