March 24, 2020

The new normal will look just like the old normal


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The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth. Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard.  When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked. (Genesis 9)

Sorry to say it, but the new normal will look like the old normal.

Maybe not economically.  Maybe not in terms of world travel.  Maybe not in terms of globalisation.But rest assured, theology tells me that the new normal will look like the old normal.

Noah surfaced from the ark along with his family after weeks and weeks of lockdown.  Eight people left (and the animals), and within no time at all, we are told, the new normal was simply the old normal.

Genesis 9 tells us that God makes a covenant with Noah that sounds suspiciously like the covenant to Adam.  A fresh start beyond what any of us could hope for post COVID-19.

Yet, depressingly, as noted above, the new normal will look like the old normal.  The guarantee of that is the sinful state of humanity, which even in these past days has shown its utter selfishness.

I mean, if the most woke suburbs in the most progressive city in the most secular nation on the planet can’t stop themselves from thinking only of themselves and turning up in droves at Bondi Beach, flouting all distancing regulations, then what hope anyone?

The same crowd that has the stick pin or flag from every rally they’ve attended where they have called on politicians to think of others than themselves, thought only of themselves!

I’ve read articles both secular and religious, that when the virus has finished with us that we have the chance to change the way we behave towards one another.  And it’s perhaps the religious ones I have most contention with.  The story of Noah tells us that the new normal will be a continuation or a variation of the old normal.

Given the chance toto change the way we behave towards one another we will, over time, slip back into the way we have always behaved towards one another.  Prior to The Flood, what are we told in Genesis 9?

 The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.

God does the ultimate wipe out and lock down with Noah.  Yet the minute he presses reboot, we read what Noah went on to do, and what his son went on to do, and how that continues the curse.

The real virus that is killing us is not as easy to kill off!  Sure we will change for a bit, but if the picture of Coogee Beach this morning (Tues) three days after the gates at Bondi were shut is any indication, we are a pretty selfish bunch.

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I want people to be different when this is over, but my theology says they will not be.

Don’t get me wrong.  Many people are doing many magnificent things.  And will continue to do them.  Many others are doing many maleficent things, and will continue to do them.

But Christians should not expect that on the other side of the virus somehow we will become better humans breaking into a new experience of the created order.  We’re waiting for the new creation for that to happen.

We would wish that it would make people more aware of what they value, and that it would show up the ephemeral nature of so many of the things that our modern West holds dear, but in time, as with Sept 11 (the last time we were told the world changed), these things will fade.

The Scriptures tell us that we are receiving a kingdom, not that we are building one.

As in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man.  Which days of Noah?  Well the days before the flood.  But, sadly, the days after the flood, for the curse continues as Noah pronounces over his son Ham:

 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” (Genesis 9:24-25)

The curse continues after the time of isolation and cleansing is over. And if we are left in any doubt of that then the next story in the sequence of Genesis, the Tower of Babel, dispels that doubt completely.

Does that mean there is no hope?  Does that mean we will learn nothing from the aftermath of this? Perhaps, but perhaps not. We know the next story in Genesis is the fresh start of covenant promise, not covenant curse, as God calls Abraham and promises to bless the world.

Yet already things are getting “back to normal” in China.  It’s the forerunner in terms of both the virus and the recovery.

And what are we seeing in China?  A kinder gentler Chinese government towards minority groups?  Less frantic focus on commerce and trade?  A lower murder rate? less wet markets where meat is sold?  Probably none of those things.

Post-virus the church will be given a great opportunity to showcase the goodness of God to many people who have fallen through the cracks.  To show kindness to strangers, to foster babies and young children (the lists will have grown!), to explore how to do grassroots church a bit more readily, and to be sobered about the fleeting nature of wealth.

But I suspect things will just get back to normal.  Sooner than we’d feared.  But perhaps sooner than we’d hoped as well.

Let’s pray we are given the opportunity while this window is still open, and what is normal is “new”, to showcase the King and his coming kingdom to all who just want to get back to what they were doing before it all happened.



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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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