Post-Covid, Are We Returning to Our Idols?
Post-Covid, Are We Returning to Our Idols?

Post-Covid, Are We Returning to Our Idols?

Life is returning to normal . . . but are we also going back to old habits and beliefs that need to be shaken up?

Leslie Koh

Though the daily Covid-19 infection cases have been on the uptick recently, by and large, the worst of the Covid-19 crisis seems to be over in Singapore. Most restrictions have been removed, the TraceTogether app has been tucked away, and many of us are slowly returning to our offices and churches for on-site services, thanking God that “things are almost back to normal again”.

But . . . which “normal” are we going back to?

Over the past two years, we’ve been hearing calls for Singapore society to adapt to a “new normal”. To relook established ways of school, work, and worship, and consider new ways of doing things, so that we won’t be caught out by another pandemic or similar crisis. 

And we’ve done that. To some extent, Covid-19 has permanently changed some of our ways of life. Our awareness of the importance of hygiene is much higher than before. At work, “hybrid” work arrangements allow people to work from home a few days a week or when they need to. At school, students are made to practise home-based learning occasionally. And at church, some small groups are still being held online.

But is there a danger of returning to old, bad habits of complacency? Will we eventually forget how vulnerable we are to disruptions? Will we return to our beliefs that things will be stable and unchanging, and forget how quickly circumstances can turn?

Two years ago, we looked at some of the “idols” that many of us may have had living and worshipping in Singapore. They were vulnerabilities and wrongful beliefs we had held on to just as we do to idols, whose true natures were exposed by Covid-19. As things continue returning to “normal”, perhaps it’s time to revisit some of those idols.


Church Services: What Do We Think of Them Now?

Post-Covid, Are We Returning to Our Idols?

Over the past two years, many of us have struggled with the question of just how important the Sunday worship service was, both individually and corporately. Covid-19 challenged us to rethink what church was all about, especially when on-site worship services had to be suspended.

Hence we debated over questions like: Is the church just about the worship service? Is it okay to just attend church services online?

Our dilemma could also be seen in the debate over whether followers of God are expected to meet in person to worship together, or whether meeting online “counted” as church.

When Covid-19 first came on the scene and disrupted church services, many of us had to be convinced that on-site services weren’t sacrosanct. For the sake of our health and safety, we were asked to go online or meet in small groups.

Now, however, congregants have gotten so used to online services that pastors are having trouble persuading them of the importance of coming back to church to worship together.

Would an acceptable answer lie somewhere in between? Perhaps we could look to the example of how students go back to school most of the time, but are made to “practise” home-based learning occasionally.

Nothing can beat face-to-face interactions in church, and the experience of singing and praying together is priceless. At the same time, however, we need to recognise that meeting online and in smaller groups at home, where needed, can also be effective in helping us grow as a body of Christ. “Hybrid” can work in church, just as it does at work and in school.

But one thing will always remain unchanged—the call to love, encourage, and spur each other on as fellow believers, as espoused in Hebrews 10:24–25: “Consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

This passage puts the worship service, whether online or on-site, in perspective. While it is a big part of our communal worship, it is not the only thing that matters: ultimately, “doing” church is about reading God’s Word and praying together, caring for each other, and praising God together—wherever and however we do it. And that is what the body of Christ does.


Self-Reliance & Selfishness: Are We Still Looking Out for Others?

At the height of the Covid-19 crisis, it was heartening to see many Samaritans emerging across Singapore.

Their caring hearts were displayed after hearing about elderly residents and needy people affected by circuit breaker measures. Many went out of their way to check on older neighbours, buy food for those stuck inside their homes, and to keep up with lonely church members. Others reached out to the jobless, the needy, and neglected foreign workers, donating food and other necessities.

Any longheld belief or idea that most people didn’t need help in Singapore were toppled by Covid-19, as we realised how many there were in our community who needed help.

Post-Covid, Are We Returning to Our Idols?

With the restrictions lifted, however, is there a risk of us forgetting that there are many out there who continue to need a helping hand or a listening ear?

To be sure, grocery shopping, meeting families and friends, and finding new jobs may be less of an issue now. But Covid-19 restrictions or not, some continue to suffer from loneliness, financial woes, joblessness, and abandonment.

As we go back to our routines and responsibilities, may we not forget those for whom returning to “normal” might not mean a reprieve.

May we continue to obey the call of Philippians 2:3–4 to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit”, but “in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others”.


Stability and Security: Are We Relying on God More?

Overall, Singapore appears to have ridden out the crisis relatively well. Having gone through some bad times in 2020 and 2021, we’ve managed to emerge from the worst of Covid-19 and get back to our routines.

It’s heartening to see the packed buses and MRT trains, crowded dining spots and malls, and people rushing to fly abroad for work and holidays.

Amid all this good news, however, one question emerges: Will we get complacent again?

There’s nothing wrong about giving ourselves a pat on the our collective backs for our national resilience and ability to cope with crises. But will we start to think that these factors are the only things we need to ensure our stability and security? And that at the end of the day, “everything will be all right”?

Or will we continue to humble our hearts and give thanks to God, knowing that what brought us through this crisis comes from His grace and provision?

Post-Covid, Are We Returning to Our Idols?

In the early New Testament years of the church, many lived with an attitude of confident expectation. Believing that Jesus could come back anytime, they sought to be found holy, helping others, and working hard. May we too live in this manner, knowing that the only true source of security is God.

Let us remember the advice of James 4:13–15, and live each day in humble trust and obedience to God who grants us life:

“You who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”

Let’s Go Back . . .
to the “New Normal”

Let’s Go Back
. . . to the “New Normal”

When things are at their worst, it can be easier to be introspective. Crises are often a strong impetus for humility: we are usually more willing to review and admit where we have gone wrong, and more ready to make radical changes. It is also during such times that we seek to go back to the basics, and abandon the idols that have distracted us from what is truly important.

But when the worst is over, it can be tempting to forget the lessons we have learnt and go back to our old ways of doing things. The Israelites were guilty of this cycle of complacency, and we can make the same mistake today, too.

As life returns to “normal” after the pandemic, may we learn to live in a “new” normal. May we cease to rely on ourselves and the predictability of routine, and place our security in God, remembering that we live in uncertain times.

May we remember that “church” is ultimately about fellow believers as we return to our church services and worship God together with refreshed gratitude and wonder.

May we continue to love our neighbour,

looking out

and caring

for others.

Post-Covid, Are We Returning to Our Idols?
May we live in confident expectation, knowing that Jesus is coming back—any time now.

About Leslie Koh

Leslie Koh spent more than 15 years as a journalist in The Straits Times before moving to Our Daily Bread Ministries. He’s found moving from bad news to good news most rewarding, and still believes that nothing reaches out to people better than a good, compelling story. He likes eating (a lot), travelling, running, editing, and writing.

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