The gospel always matters. Every time is a time when it’s needed. But there are times where we especially need to notice how much it matters. This is one of those.
Let me point out two quick reasons:
First, the gospel really matters for us right now because there is only one real kind of righteousness.
Let me make a couple clarifying remarks before explaining this one. When I say “righteousness” what I mean is being “right” with God. Righteousness is when you are on “the right side” – when you have no accusations against you that can imperil your soul. One more note: righteousness is what we all want and what we all know we need. We hate being “in the wrong.”
The gospel is good news because it is the news of a righteousness that comes not through works but through faith in Jesus Christ, the only truly righteous person (Romans 3:21-22).
This is the only real righteousness there is. Every other kind is, by definition, self-righteousness. Here’s why this matters in the midst of the corona-chaos. There is no such thing as righteousness through social distancing or quarantine. And there is no such thing as righteousness through ignoring the expectation to practice social distancing.
In the famous words of Inigo Montoya, “Let me ‘splain…no, there is too much. Let me sum up.” This whole situation comes with a host of certainties. One certainty is that all of us are going to settle on some kind of conviction about exactly how serious this virus is and how people should respond to it. Another certainty is that many of those convictions will be different. And yet another certainty is that we will be tempted to attack, malign, condemn or just get grumpy about the people who have all different (wrong in our eyes) convictions.
So, what each of us will have to recognize is that our own conviction on this situation is not the “new gospel.” Righteousness is not to be found in being right about this thing. And you’ll catch yourself trying to be righteous by being right about this thing every time you get irritated with someone who just doesn’t see it your way. When that happens you need the good news that righteousness is found in Christ alone.
Second, the gospel really matters right now because we want to avoid getting factional. Wherever there is any kind of pressure that the church feels there is a danger of division. As one wise man has pointed out, if the enemy can’t get us to disagree about the authority of the Bible, gay “marriage” or sexual ethics, then he will try to get us to be snippy with each other over a pandemic.
But the gospel is the story of how God actually had every right to be at odds with us and yet, he chose instead to love, save and serve. And if God can be patient with us in our sin then surely we can be prepared to bear with one another if we have different opinions about the appropriate response to this pandemic.
“4 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”