Recently, I was listening to a podcast of three pastors discussing preaching during this time of viral crisis. In addressing the challenges the church is currently facing, one of the pastors observed that, though we are all in the same storm, we are not all necessarily in the same boat. The same crisis, but different particulars as we face this storm. That’s helpful.
All the world is facing the same storm of the coronavirus. Some nations, however, are affected more severely than others. They are in different boats. Just look at the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus world map, and do the math. Not only by the aggregate, but by per capita, some nations are reeling from this pandemic. Their boat is being tossed more than others. The same holds true within nations. Consider our country. Overall, the infection rate seems quite low, but some provinces and particular regions have been hit harder than others. Same storm, but different boats. Some regional boats may feel like a small canoe trying to overcome fierce waves while other boats may feel like barges barely feeling a ripple. Simply put, some boats are better suited for this storm than others.
I’ve realised that, spiritually, relationally and materially, my boat has advantages that others don’t. I have enjoyed forty years of solid biblical exposure, forty years of watching the Lord bring fellow Christians through the most severe trials, nearly forty years of strong marital and family life, along with decades of material security. And so though I am in the same storm as everyone else, nevertheless, compared to many, my boat is different. Compared to many, the boat of my life has a strong outboard, a broad and strong shell not easily capsized, a good ballast to handle the swoons, and no leaks—at least none that I can detect. And I am grateful to God for this. He gave me this boat! Yet, it would be simplistic for me to assume that everyone is in the same boat. Same storm? Absolutely. Same boat? No. And this difference creates a responsibility.
I was awake last night with a heavy burden for people in our country who are hungry. And unemployed. And alone. And frightened. I lay in the boat of my warm bed and, with a healthy body, prayed for those who are barely surviving in their battered dingy. I began to think, how can I help?
I thought about and prayed for church members who are deeply concerned about their employment, about the future of their children, about how they will make ends meet in the foreseeable future. And I thought, how can I help? BBC, we are all in the same storm, but we must recognise that there is a wide array of boats in our part of the sea. We must be available to help others to survive, and even to thrive in the storm. We must work to get all the boats safely to harbour.
Paul wrote, “Look not everyone on his own things, but everyone also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:4). The whole church was facing trials, and Paul admonished each member to not be consumed with their own boat. Rather, they (and we) should consider and respond to those whose boats have perhaps sprung a leak of faith, or boats that are sinking due to financial care, or boats strained by tense family dynamics. The local church functions best when we realise that, though we are all in the same storm, we are in different boats. This is where we display glorious gospel unity amid diversity. Or, to put it another way, “By this will all men know you are my disciples, if you have love one for another” (John 13:35). That’s a boat we should all be in.