Dread may very easily produce delusion. Fearful people are easy to fool. Helpless people are easy to hoodwink. Christians have not been shielded from terror in these times – from COVID-19 and its multitude of unpleasant spin-offs, such as loss of jobs and suspended church gatherings. We too are apprehensive. A cursory look at social media feeds reveals that there is an undeniable correlation between fear and falsities. Fear feeds lies, and lies feed fear. This means that panic can make one overly prone to error. A hope-filled lie may sound more truthful and more appealing than timeless truth.
Dread may very easily produce delusion. Fearful people are easy to fool. Helpless people are easy to hoodwink
We cannot afford to be unaware of the reality of the dangers lurking around us in these times of distress. Many Christians will be faced with the danger of harmful deception. False teachers will sneak up on many of Christ’s unsuspecting sheep and peddle false teachings, and some will fall for them. Not so long ago, a renowned pastor claimed to possess authority from the throne room of God to declare COVID-19 illegal. The message was shared widely. People believed it.
So amid these world events, endless conspiracy theories, unsettling uncertainties, countless voices, warped theologies, flawed expositions and false prophecies, it is necessary that Christians in Africa be more vigilant and discerning. We are to see to it that no one deceives us (Matthew 24:4). And as we look for solutions, desire security and search for surety, we should be on our guard so that we will not be carried away by the error of the lawless (2 Peter 3:17).
A hope-filled lie may sound more truthful and more appealing than timeless truth
However, the question remains as to how we are to do this. How are genuine Christians supposed to avoid the poison? I have a few suggestions, namely: read, rehearse and relate.
1. Read Your Bible
Christians do not have a more sure source of truth than the Bible. It is the Book of books. An old preacher advised that ‘we should visit many books but live in the Bible’. Distressing and desperate times such as these call for depth in our reading of the Scriptures. This is not the time to lightly lap on texts, or scan inattentively over the scriptures. It’s time to bore through the goldmines of God’s holy word. We are now faced with the ineptness of social media to quell our fears. News may be nauseating. Tweets may be terrifying.
The word can dispel our worries, and its truth can decrease our terrors. Let’s read our Bibles
Updates may fuel our uneasiness, but the psalmist instructs us by saying, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid” (Psalm 56:3-4). To trust in God is to trust his word. The word can dispel our worries, and its truth can decrease our terrors. Let’s read our Bibles. And may the Lord lead us in his truth (Psalm 25:5).
2. Rehearse Truths to Repel Error
Nothing secures more than truth. Blaise Pascal was right when he said, “he that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust God’s providence to lead him aright.” In addition, divine truth is to be repeatedly rehearsed by the Christian. We have fickle memories and forgetful minds. When we read our Bibles and mine wisdom and truth, we should be careful to bind them to our hearts (Proverbs 6:21). As we get bombarded with many concerns, we can remember that Bible truths can help us regain perspective, renew our strength and reinforce our safeguards. To be empty of truth is to be ensnared. To lose truth is to leap into darkness.
We have fickle memories and forgetful minds. When we read our Bibles and mine wisdom and truth, we should be careful to bind them to our hearts
Now, more than ever, let’s cling to the Gospel. Let’s reject false teachers, let’s shun superstitions and let’s scrutinise our sources. Let’s remember the promise that “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free“ (John 8:31-32).
3. Relate to Other Christians
I readily admit that it is particularly hard to do this in these times of sanctioned social distancing. We are right to take precautions. Nonetheless, we need to always remember that aloneness can lead to loneliness. And loneliness makes us vulnerable to sin and error. I agree with John R. Rice that ‘people go wrong in their fellowships before they go wrong in their doctrine’. Lack of proper fellowship can also make us more prone to despair. This is because sharing in our suffering is one of the most profitable elements of Christian fellowship. We have been called into fellowship with one another (Acts 2:42). We are to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), share our goods (Hebrews 13:16), confess our sins to one another (James 5:16) and encourage one another daily, lest anyone be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13).
Loneliness makes us vulnerable to sin and error
Though we can no longer congregate as churches on the Lord’s day and share in all the ordinary means of grace, all is not lost. We can still care and encourage. We can show kindness. As like-minded, truth-loving, gospel-believing Christians, we can send a text, write an email, make a call, share a sermon, forward a link, send a note or pray. Many little acts can go a long way to keep a weak brother from error or sin. Let’s not spiritually isolate. Let’s keep in touch. We fall into the grip of error, fear and doubts when we disconnect. In the words of Eric Metaxas, ‘we now have a unique opportunity to show the watching world that “the church is not a building, it is the people of God”.’
Walk by Faith, Not by Sight
The Lord may test our faith before he turns it to sight. But when we awake in sight at the end of the age, we will join together as saints in that festal gathering for eternity. We will fear no virus or vice, we will fear no terror or turmoil. Error will be wiped out. Our fellowship will be unbroken. But in the meantime, let’s read God’s word carefully, rehearse it continuously, and relate compassionately with fellow saints. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).
Many little acts can go a long way to keep a weak brother from error or sin. Let’s not spiritually isolate.