Unanticipated gifts characteristic of the holiday season seem to be arriving a bit early this year, but not in a good way. We’re kicking off the Christmas season with a surprise package no one wanted – except, of course, for fear mongering bureaucrats and media trolls who salivate over any new reason to promote panic. Our first gift of the 2021 Christmas season is the latest COVID variant, the ominous “Omicron” variant. It apparently chose not to wait for a ride on Santa’s sleigh, so putting a mask over our chimney (or anywhere else) isn’t going to help.
A New Media Buzzword ~
We may as well call it the “Oh, My! Cron” variant, because the current media buzzword being repeated ad nauseam as it relates to it is “threat”. While I don’t have a prophet’s mantle in my wardrobe, I’m gonna make a couple of predictions anyway. I think that some people in this country will contract this new COVID variant no matter what they do. Viruses may be one of the few things left in the country that are genuinely non-partisan, that honor no class distinction, and that have no racial ax to grind. Corporate connections, social media followings, approval ratings, or net worth have no effect on how a virus responds. Omicron will not hesitate to infect anyone in its path, vaccinated, unvaccinated, boosted, unboosted, double-boosted, masked, unmasked, or multi-masked. Folks will be at risk even if they always have an asafetida bag tied around their neck when they go out and did–or didn’t–vote for Donald Trump.
If it turns out that I’m wrong about any of that, feel free to call me names and boycott my next birthday party. My objective here is not to engage in a “vaxxers vs. anti-vaxxers” debate, but to highlight a principle illustrated by viruses and their variants that concerns me much more than the impact of this latest COVID 19 offspring. It’s a principle based on a couple of basic things we know about viruses that are significant. One is that they reproduce themselves. The other is that as they multiply, they mutate.
A Process and a Principle ~
Mutations occur as viruses adapt to the hosts in which they live. As these mutations reproduce, they don’t replicate the original version. Instead, mutations produce more copies of themselves. As that process continues, new strains are developed that have the same basic design, but they adopt new characteristics:
- One of the changes common to many viruses is that the mutated versions are more easily accepted by the host. As it applies to us, that means that the mutation tends to be more transmissible; i.e., more contagious.
- The other common change in mutations is that the impact of the virus on the host diminishes.
It isn’t surprising, then, that as COVID 19 produces more variants, the symptoms created by the new strains seem to be less severe. And therein lies a lesson we would do well to consider.
If we looked at the history and progress of the Church of Jesus Christ through the lens of what goes on in viruses, we would see that a remarkably similar process has been at work. In the years after Pentecost, there was just “the Church”. In the early days, believers in Jesus were referred to as those who followed “the Way” (Acts 9:1-2). Later, the term “Christians” was applied as a derogatory epithet. As the gospel spread and Jesus’ followers multiplied, local gatherings were identified by the city or town in which they were located, or in some cases by the person’s home that served as the meeting place (Romans 16:3-5). The Church wasn’t seen as a building or some kind of religious institution. It was a living body made up of all kinds of people, each of whom had a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. There was structure, but not the kind made of wood and stone. The Church was living and incredibly powerful.
Life Changing Impact ~
In the early years, the Church was focused on doing what it was commissioned to do. Christians demonstrated unconditional love and delivered a message of hope, freedom, and peace. And most compelling of all, they proclaimed Jesus’ promise of forgiveness of sins and life beyond the grave. The impact not only transformed lives, it altered the course of world history. But as time moved on, things began to change.
In much the same way as viruses mutate in order to be more easily absorbed into the surrounding host, the Church began to make changes through the years, as well. New functions and practices were added that weren’t part of the original plan. Elements were altered or adjusted to make it more adaptable and attractive to the culture in which it lived. Then as the multiplication process went on, instead of replicating the original purpose, design, and function that Jesus prescribed, the Church began to reproduce the mutated version. The result may have looked like positive growth in some cases, but the power would never be the same. The tendency to engage in those mutating adaptations was evident even in Paul’s day. He delivered a stern warning to the Church in Galatia that is as relevant to us as it was for them. He said,
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9 NKJV)
No Menu of Options ~
The message of Jesus isn’t meant for institutional application. At its heart, following Jesus is an individual decision, and it’s all-encompassing. Otherwise, its objective is obscured and its purpose cannot be fulfilled. Jesus didn’t offer salvation with a menu of options. He didn’t die in our place to be a helpful addendum to our lives, and He doesn’t adjust His standards to suit our preferences or to be acceptable to the culture around us. The forgiveness and eternal life He offers is free in the sense that it isn’t for sale and cannot be bought, but from another perspective, accepting Jesus costs us everything. The endless life He promises requires not only confessing our sins and moral failures, it requires rejecting and relinquishing them.
When it comes to COVID and its variants, it’s natural and protective to want its effects to be milder and less intrusive. But what might be a desirable and positive approach in the molecular world can be devastating in the spiritual realm. Versions of Christianity that are milder and less intrusive are also empty and powerless. We’re living at a time when multitudes are identifying themselves as “Christians”, while at the same time, the institutional Church has never seemed so irrelevant and impotent to resist the spread of evil permeating the culture surrounding it.
Impossible to Count ~
Christianity has multiplied in the world until at this point, it’s nearly impossible to determine not only how many Christians there are, but how many distinct denominations there are. The number fluctuates so rapidly that an accurate count is virtually impossible. The estimated number of denominations varies between 41,000 and 45,000. If there was even a shadow of the transformational power that the Church had in the beginning, things would be different. We wouldn’t be living in utopia, but we would not be seeing the blatant exhibitions of human depravity confronting us daily. But the good news in spite of it all is that there’s something we can do.
The first step is to open the New Testament and ensure that we haven’t been duped with a religious mutation. Then, instead of working to reproduce some brand of Christianity we find attractive, the challenge is to keep our focus on the original. The One who created the Church, who designated its purpose and made us a part of it, will also use us to replicate it, populate it, and empower it. It’s simple. Get out the “Guidebook”, connect with its Author, and do what He says.
So, regarding Omicron (or any other variant), sign me up for the one with the mildest symptoms, but when it comes to the Church of Jesus Christ, bring on the undiluted, full-strength original!
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “In much the same way as viruses mutate to be more easily absorbed into the surrounding host, the Church began to make changes through the years. Elements were changed to make it more adaptable and attractive to the culture in which it lived.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “As the multiplication process went on, instead of replicating the original purpose, design & function that Jesus prescribed, the Church began to reproduce the mutated version. The result may have looked like positive growth in some cases, but the power would never be the same.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The message of Jesus isn’t meant for institutional application. At its heart, following Jesus is an individual decision, and it’s all-encompassing. Otherwise, its objective is obscured and its purpose cannot be fulfilled.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “We’re living at a time when multitudes are identifying themselves as “Christians”, while at the same time, the institutional Church has never seemed so irrelevant and impotent to resist the spread of evil permeating the culture surrounding it.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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© 2021 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
Not only did your words elicit plenty of “Amens”, you evoked a few “Hallelujahs” along the way sir. I have long believed that Christ’s true church has become so watered down that in many cases, it’s lost much of its saltiness, flavor, and effectiveness. Many so-called churches today are little more that social clubs where like-minded people gather to appear religious to the public eye, but in reality they are empty tombs that have no interest in proclaiming the truth of God’s word and the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Too many churches are focused much more on the world than on the Word, and it shows. Look in many pulpits, look at what’s being taught in Sunday schools, and even some so-called Christian schools. In some cases, it has been subverted to be in direct contrast to the teachings of God’s word. My heart breaks to see so many deceived “pew dwellers” who believe all they have to do is sing a hymn and ensure people see them put something in the offering plate. I wonder, how many people actually pray over their tithes and offerings that God will bless it and use it to further His kingdom work? Why the church decided to abdicate its role of moral leadership, giving, caring, and educating to the government I’ll never understand. I personally think that we’ve crossed the tipping point of morality and true Christianity and can never fully return (in this age) to what Christ’s body (the church) is supposed to be. What I fervently pray, is that we can help those who are deceived and blinded by the apostasy that is so rampant (another virus of our own making) can be awakened and return to a true relationship with God before it’s too late. What a great clarion call my friend. I pray many heed your warning sir.
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God bless you, Brother! I am so on the same page with you and wanted to jump out of my chair and shout as I read your words. The advances that every form of satanic evil have made during my lifetime are the direct result of mutating and weakening the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church has been turned into something unrecognizable in comparison to what we were designed to be. You’d think that we were sent into the world to go gather people and use every means available to entice them to give money so that we can go gather more people and collect more money, etc. But God keeps us from despair by giving us glimpses that let us know that the risen Christ is still at work and that hope is not lost. The Gospel still has the same sin-cleansing, soul-saving, life-changing power that has been populating Heaven for two thousand years and Light still overcomes the darkness. And He encourages us with courageous warriors like you who keep fighting back against the entertainment hungry, comfort seeking crowd that fill the pews in so many of our so-called “churches”. Diane and I are heartened by hearing from you this morning and continue our prayers for your recovery and that every need will be provided for you and your Diane and all the members of the Cross-Dubya family. The future may seem dismal in lots of ways, but it’s brighter with you guys in it.
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Amen, Ron! When it comes to Jesus, I want Him full strength, not watered down. Loved your great analogy here today, my friend.
Please forgive me for not visiting with you over the last two weeks; we were on a marvelous vacation to see the grands, and that was most definitely the focus of my life during that time. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!
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I think someone in the PJNet group mentioned your wonderful opportunity to spend time with “the grands”. Doing that is our favorite pastime, and I’m glad you got to do it. It’s great to hear from you always, and the future looks brighter just knowing you’re out there faithfully doing what God equipped you and called you to do. I echo your amen re. the full strength version of all Jesus died to offer us. That’s the place we find hope that no government program or religious ritual can offer us. God bless you, Martha, and keep on replicating the real thing.
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Thank you so much, Shirley. It’s always encouraging and uplifting to hear from your and we’re grateful to know that you’re out there standing strong for truth and righteousness in a world overwhelmed by the opposite. God bless you for brightening our morning.
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