“Shelter in place.”
“Stay at home.”
“Essential trips and services.”
These are the familiar messages that bombard our radios, televisions, internet streams. The public reactions are varied, as state upon state issues such executive orders and Subject Matter Expert advisories.
Many had previously volunteered to self-quarantine, recognizing the necessity of doing so, while others marched boldly and defiantly to crowded arenas and beaches, trusting their invincibility in the face of the extant viral threat. Still others have called for an executive order from the federal level to override decisions made by states and municipalities.
My own governor, Jay Inslee, delivered a well-worded address Monday evening, ordering all Washingtonians to remain home for a minimum of two weeks, leaving home only for essential services, such as doctor visits or pharmacy pickups. Interestingly, even physicians are not seeing patients in-person, opting rather to interview and diagnose them remotely via the telephone.
What are we to do as we shelter in place? As I pondered being confined to my home, I thought of Paul, sitting in his own prison for preaching the gospel of Jesus. It would have been easy for Paul to despair, throw up his hands and say, “Well, so much for the gospel.”
But no! Though we may be confined, the gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be confined.
Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. – 2 Timothy 2:9, NKJV
Whether chained to a Roman guard, or confined to our home offices, the word of God refuses to be confined – refuses to be chained. Though all creature comforts be removed, and we be stuck in a dank, repugnant prison cell, the gospel will march forward. The preacher may be in prison, but the gospel runs free.
Therefore, rather than dwell on what we cannot do, our limitations, we will find ourselves much more productive if we focus on what we can do. Paul was in chains for the gospel, but his tongue was still free, his pen was unchained. While we could truthfully say that Paul was chained to a Roman soldier who was guarding him, it is equally true to say the Roman soldier guarding him was chained to Paul. The apostle had a captive audience.
The evidence of God working good in a less-than-ideal situation is seen in the greeting of Philippians 4:22, where it is clear that Christianity had worked its way into the household of Caesar Nero, a man infamous for his dislike of Christianity. The fact that Paul can have that level of influence while imprisoned is nothing short of astonishing!
Beyond that, Paul’s message had reached “the whole Praetorian Guard” (Philippians 1:13), all ten thousand of them being fully aware that he was in chains for Christ. Not only that, but specifically because of Paul’s bondage, the body of believers was emboldened to preach the gospel without fear (Philippians 1:14).
While imprisoned in Rome, the apostle Paul penned some of his most beautiful New Testament works, including letters to Timothy, Onesimus, and the churches at Ephesus, Philippi, and Colossae.
Our confinements during COVID-19 do not compare to the conditions borne by the apostle Paul and it is not the purpose of this blog posting to attempt a comparison. Rather I’m encouraging us to look not at limitations, but at possibilities. I’ve said this before and it bears repeating here. We need to get beyond looking at God in light of our circumstances, and begin looking at our circumstances in light of God.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Victoriously in Christ!