We are the times

I was confused. My fifth grade class was not on schedule. Instead of our normal routine, we were about to watch something on television. As my eleven-year-old mind tried to make sense of the pictures I saw, this much became clear: someone had hurt many people. A building was torn in half from bottom to top. Could it be that this was Oklahoma City?

171 lives ended that day. The memorial honors the victims with 168 empty chairs (149 adults and 19 children), plus the names of three preborn children who died with their mothers. It was, until 9/11, the deadliest terror attack in the United States.

In the days that followed my eyes saw the helpers. I saw rescue workers fighting through exhaustion to help pull people from the wreckage. I saw thousands lined up to donate blood. I saw compassion. I saw love.

Those are the same images that one would see from any tragedy in any place on earth. People rising to the occasion. People risking their health to help others.

While we cannot control what happens to us, we can always control how we respond.

Christians have endured persecution, have lived among great wickedness, and have experienced physical, emotional, and economic hardships with the rest of the world. Christians are not called to lament their situations but rather to rise above them. Armed with the power of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and fueled by the hope of heaven, Christians call people to elevated living.

We are to clothe ourselves with “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12 ESV). We are to bear with one another, forgive one another, and live out love in our lives (Colossians 3:13, 14). These Christ-like characteristics should abound daily, but during the most difficult days, they will shine all the brighter.

It is by living a Christ-like life that Christians influence others. We are to be the salt of the earth and light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). It is by living a Christ-like life that we invite others to enjoy what we have. When was the last time someone asked you about your hope (1 Peter 3:15)?

While we cannot control what happens to us, we can always control how we respond.

There is an apt quote from Augustine, the essence of it is this: “Bad times, hard times, people keep saying this. But let us live well and the times will be good. We are the times; such as we are, such are the times.”

Augustine was not delusional enough to think that a few people living well would remove evil or misfortune from the world. Rather, Augustine suggests that in the presence of evil and misfortune we can control our hearts, our minds, and our lives.

Just as a terror attack did not define the people of Oklahoma City in 1995, the Coronavirus does not define us in 2020.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).

If we are Christ’s then we are the times. Make of them what God wills.

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