For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you
not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think,
but to think with sober judgment,
each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Read Romans 12:1-8
I don’t think it would be an overstatement to suggest that we tend to be overwhelmed by the circumstances in life that are beyond our control. How will our children turn out? What ailments will beset us as we get older? Will our generation live in times of relative peace and prosperity around the world or marred by war and famine? Will I be able to have children? Will the company I work for go belly up? What political party will control the government? Now, we can have some influence on some of these things – how we eat and exercise now has some effect on our health later. We can vote and organize and try to persuade others why our side is better. But, none of these things are ultimately in our hands.
The current pandemic is no different. We have absolutely no control of what people in New York City or Italy or Iran are doing right now. We don’t know if the changes to life as normal will continue for weeks or months. We have no idea what the economy will be like on the other side. And little of it rests directly on our sphere of influence. We certainly can do our part and we can encourage others to do theirs but beyond that we are inundated with information with which we simply cannot directly engage.
It is interesting to me that Paul begins this incredible chapter on outward acts of love with a call to humility. No one ought to think more highly of herself (or himself) that she ought (vs. 3). And then he uses his famous analogy of the church as being like a body (4-6). Our bodies have different parts. Each part is necessary. Each part is different. So it is in the church. Each member has been give gifts. And these gifts differ “according to the grace give to us” (vs. 6). Paul’s call to humility in verse 3 (he’ll do it again in verse 16) is a call to sanity. You don’t have to have other people’s gifts. You don’t have to have someone else’s “measure of faith.” You have your role to play. Quit comparing. Quit envying. Instead, “use” what you have been given (vs. 6).
I received a wise email from a mentor of mine the on Monday. He basically made the same point. As a pastor I don’t have to all of a sudden become an expert on viruses. I don’t have to start a Youtube channel or pull off a Hollywood-quality production on Sunday mornings with my iphone. My gifts are my gifts and are to be used to “equip the saints (you guys) for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12) in pandemic season and out of pandemic season.
And your gifts are to be used for the same purpose.
There is a prayer in my Every Moment Holy book for “Those Flooded with Too much Information.” I’ll read the full prayer on Sunday. But, I found this helpful today.
In a world so wired and interconnected,
Our anxious hearts are pummeled by
An endless barrage of troubling news.
We are daily aware of more grief, O Lord,
Than we can rightly consider,
Of more suffering and scandal
Than we can respond to, of more
Hostility, hatred, horror, and injustice
Than we can engage with compassion.
But you, O Jesus, are not disquieted
By such news of cruelty and terror and war.
You are neither anxious nor overwhelmed.
You carried the fully weight of the suffering
Of a broken world when you hung upon
The cross, and you carry it still.
When the cacophony of universal distress
Unsettles us, remind us that we are but small
And finite creatures, never designed to carry
The vast abstractions of great burdens,
For our arms are too short and our strength
Is too small. Justice and mercy, healing and
Redemption, are your great labors.
And yes, it is your good pleasure to accomplish
Such works through your people,
But you have never asked any one of us
To undertake more than your grace
Will enable us to fulfill.
Douglas Kaine McKelvey
All of that was true six months ago before the virus. And all of it will be true when the virus has run its course. The virus is just the current “barrage of troubling news.”
But, remember Paul’s call to humility, his reminder that we are small and finite and only have a small part to play, is not a call to passivity but a call to action. You have a gift that the church needs right now, that your spouse needs right now, that your children need right now. Use it.
Prayer Use the prayer from McKelvey above. Make it your own.