‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.’ – 1 John 3.16-18From Martin Hayward:
During the TV celebrations of the 75th Anniversary of VE day we were reminded that the King and Queen stayed in London all through the war in spite of the very real threat that Buckingham Palace would be a prime target for Luftwaffe bombers. The threat proved a reality and the palace and grounds were hit several times – the worst being on 13 September 1940 during the second of three daylight raids on London that day. After this attack, the Queen in a now famous statement was prompted to express her solidarity with fellow Londoners, remarking: “I am glad we have been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face”
When Covid19 hit the UK and restrictions started, I imagined that we would be in a similar situation. I had read about churches being closed around the world and worship being via Zoom or YouTube and so thought that we could now echo the Queen Mother and say that we were all in it together and could therefore look other Christians around the world in the face.
And it’s true that, during the pandemic, technology that helps the UK church function can help others, too. For instance, ‘Open Doors’ beams radio programmes into North Korea, supports Christians in Algeria via TV and provides an ‘encouragement app’ to support Christians living under pressure across the Middle East. But technology can also be used as an enemy. In China, for instance, the state relies on technology to restrict forms of Christian worship suspected of being disloyal to the regime.
Whilst we struggle to book a supermarket delivery slot, for other Christians lockdown means that they no longer have an income. In India, for example, most church members are daily wage labourers and no work for the day means no food for the day. In Syria men, women and children are crying with hunger since Christians are often ignored when official aid is distributed.
We’ll hear more on Sunday when our speaker will be Dan Gower from Open Doors.
But the question remains: how on earth will we ever be able to look poor and persecuted brothers and sisters in the face? I think that the answer must be to support them with our prayers, backed up by practical generosity as we consider all that we have – even in this time of restriction during which we experience just a taste of what it is to be weak in the world.