From COVID cluster to the attempted Capitol coup d’état on the news, to conversational churches, the opening of the new year could not have been any more of a clown show. There has been no ‘happy new year’ despite the number of times it has been included as a greeting in work emails written from home.
When you live a few hundred metres from the epicentre of a Western Sydney COVID outbreak and you have been within a few metres of a confirmed case, there is not much to be done apart from eating, sleep, pray, work from home and getting tested. But getting tested is not just the thousands of locals self-isolating at home, but the local community’s resolve.
A host of challenges
With State Government officials scrambling to provide adequate health facilities in a community known mainly for a Council felled by its Deputy Mayor’s wedding among a host of challenges facing the large culturally and linguistically diverse population, many have been left behind with the lack of translated information on the necessary steps in responding to the COVID cluster.
For many days, except a small number of community and faith leaders, the highly multicultural area has had little where to turn to for support. The importance of words, whether it be in English or not, speaks to a higher reality of the joy found in a timely word.
Inspired by Proverbs chapter 15 verse 23 while facing the constraints of self-isolation as both a close contact of COVID and an active faith-based community member, it is a blessing how modern technology allows us to share a presence. Receiving and sharing timely words being actual exhortations or Maccas deliveries from others caught up in the pandemic, added new meaning to the hashtag #inthistogether.
The timely word
As we continue this year with uncertainty, the ‘timely word’ is our newfound warm hugs that even social distancing cannot restrict. It is through the Fruits of the Spirit and prayer that bring us together.
No matter, words whether spoken, unspoken, and now misrepresented, all have grave power to influence, support or undermine our social cohesion. The idolisation of false hopes and mistaken belief in anonymous online writings gave rise to the attempted coup in the US Capitol.
Whether you view big tech’s removal of President Trump from social media as an act of civics, censorship, or a combination of both, it is no secret that words and silence are equally powerful. Jesus taught us our words reveal our heart and James, in his letter, describes the tongue as “full of deadly poison”.
Words used for good or evil
Modern technology brings us closer together and offers more opportunity to exhort one another especially during times of crisis, but through the same medium, it is easy to “poison” the world. It is easy to make a foolish statement and post words of division online without much thorough thought.
With self-control being a Fruit of the Spirit, we ought to be in control of our words to ensure that it is sent out with care and empathy. Yet likewise, we ought not to allow our voices to be controlled or constrained by ungodly ideas or the echo chambers of thriving through big tech.
Churches are in the prime position, despite the many crises of confidence around us, to be a leading voice in shaping godly conversations. What the world needs is not a better godless society, but a godly community modelled on the Word of Truth.
No one could have envisioned that 2020 would have been a year of chaos but we ought not to just hold firm knowledge that God’s calling for us is that we live a life abundant with growing knowledge of Him which leads us to good works. We also ought to be strengthened by God’s Word but go forth and exhort others in love.
Paul’s letter to the Colossians has revealed that he did not foresee how widespread the impact of the Good News would be to the wider world. Like the spread of COVID, no one could have imagined its global effects. When we as the church share the Word, we have the opportunity to introduce new life and the offer Christ’s forgiveness of sins to others.
This is a global phenomenon that needs to take hold urgently and one that can be done starting with a prayer asking God for strength in recognising the power of our timely words and lovingly using the power of speech to be life-giving. Human language barriers will be overcome by God’s love in action taking hold of the church as a community under Christ.
Lord Jesus, help me to know what the right words are, guide me as I speak and correct me when I fall short of your intent. Let me be fruitful to produce faith and love.
This article was first published at Christian Today Australia on Monday 22 February 2021.