It has been a year since the outbreak of the rampant pandemic of COVID-19, and the isolation and tension caused by the pandemic has brought a revolutionary change to everyone. Whether you are a retail magnate or a business magnate, you have to deal with the debt and the danger of broken capital chains.
Whether you are a Christian or a Buddhist, belong to the Reformed church or adhere to Pentecostalism, are in a small or large church; you are as equal in the face of this pandemic as everyone else. No one is an exception.
As a result, the past 40 years' tradition of over-emphasis on individual freedom, the model of economic development, even the path of Christianity, must be rewritten in the face of today’s plague.
It is in the face of this pandemic that we, the tiny human individuals, have to return to the self, and to the family, to think about the meaning of individual life. It is the instinct of the individual human being to return in the face of any disaster.
The future of the world, therefore, is bound to shift from the emphasis on grand goals in the past to a model centered on individual happiness.
Happiness is the ultimate goal of human pursuit. It is also the ultimate trend of mankind in this world. That’s what Jesus wrote in the Sermon on the Mount. (Mathew 5:3-11)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
What is our purpose for believing in God, and what is our purpose for following Jesus?
In the past, we emphasized the grand goal of building heaven on earth. To this end, we joined the gospel return movement, we shouted out the goals of the three revolutions, and we developed the grand theological program. In these grand schemes, individual Christians became cogs in the machine of the great movement. We have no choice but to roll with the waves of these great movements.
But Jesus has already shown in the Gospel that our reward for believing in God is not the illusory promise of heaven, but happiness. We clear our hearts, we are gentle, and we make people peaceful. All these things can make us happy. So by following Jesus, we get earthly happiness. It’s the happiness of life.
Clearly, by Jesus’ time, individual Jews were fed up with being instruments of the Zionist movement and needed a life in which they could control their own destiny and pursue their own personal happiness.
Happy life certainly means that the individual returns to the individual and takes care of himself. This kind of self-observing existentialism, just like the background of World War II in which it came into being, will inevitably become a model for people to take care of themselves and reflect on history after this great plague.
The bottleneck to Christianity’s growth must become clearer in the aftermath of the pandemic.
The old religious model of faith, which emphasized loyalty to the church organization, that is, commitment to the church, is bound to be challenged. This challenges the old paternalistic, dedicated, and individualistic model of church organization and structure.
This challenge does not mean that the traditional church will suddenly shrink. It does not mean that those who are used to the traditional church model will stay away from the church. Especially those who have been hit by the pandemic, they will find comfort in the traditional church.
The challenges and bottlenecks are more likely to appear in the development of the church. The traditional church scheme with its old patterns continues to try to attract followers. There is little possibility to attract the mainstay of the society. For young individuals with happy families and stable jobs and lives, the traditional evangelical message of the church has little appeal.
In addition, the closed management of schools during the pandemic also inevitably brings difficulties to the development of fellowships for college students. This dilemma not only brings about increased difficulty in recruiting new members but also causes a lack of economic support because there are no college student believers attending the existing fellowships, which makes it difficult to pay the rents and salaries of staff of student fellowships.
In addition, the clichéd life sermons of fellowships for college students are bound to conflict with the shift in world economy and thoughts towards existentialism of individual self-care, and thus are less attractive to college students.
Another aspect of this pandemic is that individuals, unlike people in ancient societies, no longer need the solace of religion, and neither Christians nor other religious people are in a good position to deal with the plague.
How to handle one's own life and let oneself enjoy happiness is the most important thing. But happiness is not about leading a gay life or living in luxury. Happiness is necessarily a healthy and abstemious life. This is actually consistent with Jesus’ teaching.
In the post-pandemic era, the return of the individual and the well-being of the individual must become the center of attention, which will inevitably lead to the return to Jesus through religion.
- Translated by Nicolas Cao