By: Dr. Robby Bell, pastor of Young Memorial ARP Church
It’s the “new normal.” That’s where we find ourselves here in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, an event that has re-defined our current state of being given the dramatic changes that have transpired. By definition, a new normal means that the former state of being is gone. There is no more “getting back to normal,” for what we once knew to be the norm is gone, and the pathway back to it, sealed off. As is usually the case with drastic change, we don’t like the new normal, especially this one. We grieve what has been lost in this new normal. But, new normals are as old as Adam and Eve.
Genesis chapter three depicts the very first shattering of “normal” and the first instance of “social distancing.” You see, Adam and Eve enjoyed daily communion and fellowship with God and with one another in the Garden of Eden where God had placed them. But, after listening to the deceiver, and choosing to go against what God had told them, suddenly, in the blink of an eye, everything changed. Adam and Eve felt shame and began to distance themselves from one another, and they hid from God too. Then, they were banished from the Garden of Eden—this is social distancing at its worst. Thus, began a tragic new normal for them, and for us.
That “new normal,” which is the only norm we know, has been with humankind ever since, and there is nothing that mankind can do to get things “back to normal,” not back to “Garden-of-Eden” normal. And mankind has been wearing masks ever since, hiding from one another and from God. Masks conceal the reality, the real norm, of our broken selves and injured souls, and we wear them in the hope that the door to Eden may be opened to us once again, if we appear righteous enough. But it is not. It remains shut..
We also forever are washing our hands in a vain attempt to rid ourselves of the dark blot of our sin that fouls our hearts and souls. Such guilt drove David to cry out, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. . . . blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:1-2, 9-10). David begs of God to create a new normal in which God will act to cleanse him and free him from his sin and guilt. Apart from the implementation of a new normal initiated and instituted by God, David would not be free from his guilt, and neither can we.
Fortunately, from the very beginning, God had planned to replace this broken norm with a new normal. Tucked within God’s curse of the serpent (Gen. 3:15b) is the promise that God would send an offspring of the woman who would indeed crush the head of the serpent. Jesus Christ is that One. For all who put their trust in Jesus Christ as Savior, there is a new normal awaiting them. Through the blessing of God, signs of the new normal already are being realized in our lives today as the old works of the flesh are replaced with the new fruit of the Spirit. In this new normal, which springs solely from the steadfast love of God, there is no social distancing, no mask-wearing, and no need for hand-washing. John describes the final consummation of this new normal in Revelation (21:1-5) where he writes: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, . . . ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’”
He who was seated on the throne has declared it: “Behold, I am making everything new!” And THAT will be the final new normal—for those whose trust is in the Lord Jesus Christ, by whose death and resurrection the return to the Garden of Eden is assured. And THAT is the new normal we celebrate as believers today, and every day. Thanks be to God!