10 July 2020

We are in a time when the ideas that got us through the pandemic, the idea that we are one people, working together, are beginning to curdle. We have not had to lock down a region of the nation — that (dis)honour has gone to Victoria — but instead we have had people arriving with Kiwi passports that won’t self isolate or stay in pad for accommodation for two weeks. The psychologist here is being polite. When one of these people wonders around a supermarket and then tests positive for COVID, the country goes feral ten seconds later.

On Thursday Megan Woods, the Minister in charge of the isolation facilities, revealed police will be posted outside 24/7 to prevent further escapes.

The news followed two people escaping the facilities in a week – one of whom was positive for COVID-19.

Clinical psychologist Dougal Sutherland says police will only worsen the feelings of being locked down.

“I think it will really add to their sense of being isolated perhaps increasing their sense of being a threat to other people – and that can have a really negative effect on people’s mental wellbeing,” Sutherland told Newshub.

In addition to the anxiety, he says there is a darker side to New Zealand’s “team of five million” mentality which has been highlighted throughout the pandemic.

The term “team of five million” was used continuously by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to remind New Zealanders of the importance of working together to stop the spread of the virus.

But Sutherland says returning New Zealanders are being treated like outsiders which could create a divisive and unhealthy “us versus them mentality”.

“We can be suspicious of people who aren’t part of that team,” he said.

“We need to be cautious about that because everyone in that isolation is a New Zealander returning home – they are welcome to be here because it’s their home too.”

What this time, this elite, lacks is a theology of pain. Of trial. Things go bad, and our distress is not an ullusion we should detach from. Lewis said that God speaks to us in many ways, but in pain he shouts.

If we love, we will sorrow. If we have, it can be taken from us. This time of global panic over a virus — a nasty one, admittedly — will end. So will our times of plenty. For God tests us, refines us, and brings us closer to him.

We don’t know his reasons: we have this however. He does it for his glory, and he preserves our nations out of mercy. Our tribe is not God. Instead our tribe should bend their knee to God alone, for the church is made of all tribes and all nations.

Isaiah 48:6-11

6 “You have heard; now see all this;
and will you not declare it?
From this time forth I announce to you new things,
hidden things that you have not known.
7 They are created now, not long ago;
before today you have never heard of them,
lest you should say, ‘Behold, I knew them.’
8 You have never heard, you have never known,
from of old your ear has not been opened.
For I knew that you would surely deal treacherously,
and that from before birth you were called a rebel.
9 “For my name’s sake I defer my anger,
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.
10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.

So we need to worship more: fair warning, the linked video is long.

Romans 15:14-21

14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. 15 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, 21 but as it is written,

“Those who have never been told of him will see,
and those who have never heard will understand.”

There are many who don’t like this. They want us to be as Gods, they think they can tear down our nations and make them better. They think they can avoid pain, sweat, blood, tears, frustration, anger, and instead be comfortable all the time. But it is not like that. We are in covenant with Christ and with each other — and the second thing is called families. Families hurt.

The Jews needed to know that there would be a new work: the good news of salvation would be preached to all peoples.

We need to know that the gospel is still there. It is time to stand.

For our faithfulness will be a glory to God in a time when the rulers panic.

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