COVID-19, the Prosperity Gospel, and a Broken-Bread Kind of Love

by Mommy Emily

It’s Good Friday here in northern Canada. Outside the trumpeter swans are singing from pools of melting snow, red-breasted robins are perched on bird feeders, and the welcome sound of geese serenades the sky. The air smells of soggy earth and new grass.

As we are on most of these COVID-19 days, we’re gathered together in our home, just me and my husband and our three kids. Only this time, instead of watching Dude Perfect or reading Little House on the Prairie or playing a board game — we’re currently going through all 100+ that my husband owns in alphabetical order and ranking them — we’re seated on the carpet in the living room around the old leather trunk that serves as our coffee-table.

On the trunk is a white lace tablecloth, five goblets, and a tea saucer with torn up pieces of brown bread. It’s our makeshift communion.

Before we “clink” our goblets unceremoniously and pass the plate of torn-up bread, I read through John 6, in which Jesus invites us to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

Then I turn to 1 Corinthians 11, in which Jesus declares the broken bread is His body, and the poured-out wine is His blood, and then He says, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”

And then I hesitantly share what has been on my heart.

All my life I’ve known we were to partake in the sacrament of communion. I’m a pastor’s daughter. I grew up with the Lord’s Supper. All my life I’ve known Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient. It’s all encompassing, and nothing else is needed. Our “work” is simply to believe. (John 6:29)

But lately I’ve wondered, what if Jesus isn’t calling us to more? What if when He says, “Do this in remembrance of me,” He means more than just remembering Him through drinking juice from plastic cups and eating dry pieces of bread? More than establishing a mere human tradition?

What if He means part of remembering Him is allowing our bodies to be broken, and our blood to be poured out? Isn’t that the same as, “Take up your cross daily and follow Me?”

It’s a message that flies in the face of the “prosperity gospel” — a dangerous and false gospel which has permeated the globe as malevolently as any virus, and which we’re currently fighting as we equip pastors in Africa. The message of the cross flies in the face of wealth, health and happiness through the Name of Jesus, or the idea that because Jesus did everything, now we’re just meant to enjoy a lavish, pampered life.

COVID-19 also flies in the face of this false teaching. People’s bodies piled up in streets or in refrigerated trucks around the world. Churches shut down, economies tragically hit, and the godly and ungodly alike forced into extreme isolation. The persecuted and the poor suffering even more, and in silence, because of rigid government restrictions and abuses. The world needs a broken, bleeding people to image Jesus in this global crisis.

Jesus said in this world we would have trouble, but to take heart for He had overcome the world. (John 16:33) More than that, He said it was a gift to suffer. A privilege. “Blessed are the persecuted,” Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount. “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.” (Matthew 5:10-12, NIV)

Philippians expands upon this gift. “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ, but also the privilege of suffering for Him.” (1:29, NLT)

How can pain and anguish and losing everything be considered a gift? A privilege?

It’s not what we’re losing, but for whom, and why.

In Colossians Paul says “I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His body, which is the church.” (1: 24, NIV)

The Amplified version expands upon this: “Since the church is Christ’s body, figuratively speaking, whatever the church suffers can be considered additional sufferings by Christ Himself, and all such suffering was ordained and destined by God; what is left to suffer in God’s plan is what is ‘lacking of Christ’s afflictions.’ Paul, as a member of the church, was destined to suffer through persecution, etc., thereby taking his share of the church body’s divinely-ordained suffering.”

We find a similar anthem in Philippians 3, where Paul says, “I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death (AMP – dying as He did), and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”

Peter echoes this song when he says, “If you suffer for doing good, and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His footsteps.” (This, from a disciple who — according to tradition — insisted on being crucified head-down, not considering himself worthy enough to be crucified in the same way as his Lord.

Yet we can’t enter into this without peering intently and continuously into the eyes of the One who loved us enough to give up His life for us. As Stephen was being stoned, where were his eyes fixed? Upon Jesus Christ, who was standing at the right hand of the Father, cheering Stephen on and ready to welcome him into the kingdom of heaven. This gave Stephen the grace to both endure, and to forgive, even as he passed into glory.

This world is not our home, dear ones.

We know where we’re going. To a place with no more tears, no more suffering, for eternity. (Rev. 21:4)

But three billion people on this planet still do not know where they are going. They have not even heard of Christ’s sacrifice or love for them.

And so, we show them proof of His love by allowing His love to transform us. By allowing our bodies to be broken and our blood poured out on behalf of the world — not because Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t sufficient, but because it is still at work in us — it is our spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1)

As one Canadian martyr, Merlin Grove, said, “It is my sole purpose to remain faithful unto death to the One who conquered death for me.”

We love Him. And we show our love by taking up our cross and dying for the world, in Jesus’ footsteps. Because this kind of broken-bread love will draw an unbelieving world to Him.

I share my heart with my little family, and it almost breaks in the process. I love them more than life itself, and the idea of watching any of them suffer is almost more than I can stand. But it starts here. With a white lace tablecloth, five goblets, and a tea saucer with torn up pieces of brown bread. The same Jesus who gave us this meal will give us the grace to follow in His footsteps. And His mercy will follow us all the days of our lives.

We take. We eat. We remember. And the trumpeter swans sing Hallelujah.