Pastoral Perspectives

Testing Ourselves Regularly

Due to an increase in number of Covid-19 cases, our government has recently announced new measures in an attempt to keep the situation under control and to slow down transmission. This include requiring workers in more sectors such as public transport front-line staff to undergo mandatory routine testing more frequently – from once a fortnight to once weekly.

In addition, companies in sectors not subject to mandatory testing will get eight Antigen Rapid Test (ART) kits per employee and are expected to initiate weekly testing for their onsite staff over a two-month period. While these tests can be administered by the individuals at home or at the work premises, employers are to ensure that the tests are done properly and report the results to respective government agencies.

As Singapore transits to endemic Covid-19, every household will also be receiving six kits to enable self-testing. With access to a convenient and quick means of testing, the government hopes that pre-emptive self-testing and a close monitoring of one’s health would help to ensure a safer community for all. It would also provide any individual a peace of mind if he or she is worried about possible contact with a positive case.

Based on the recent measures, one would say that there is certainly a tremendous amount of effort and resources that is being channelled into detecting Covid-19. This is because over the past 28 days (based on Channel News Asia’s report on 15 Sept 2021), the percentage of local cases who were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms is 98.1%. This would suggest that if not for the regular testing, most of those individuals would not have known that they even have Covid-19 and would most likely have gone on with their daily routine.

While more and more in Singapore are required or being encouraged to self-test for Covid-19 for the sake of their health as well as the physical well-being of others, one wonders how different a local church community and society at large would be like if Christians are just as intentional about examining the condition of our relationship with God. After all, one who is walking closely with Jesus would inevitably make a positive impact upon others.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Apostle Paul urged the believers to “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

The fact that Paul could give such an instruction indicates that it is possible to distinguish between a true Christian from those who simply self-identify as one. After all, a Christian is not one who merely points to some event in the past to substantiate their claim. More than just putting one’s name on a church membership list or regular Sunday attendance, Paul helps us understand that a true follower of Christ is someone in whom Christ dwells. And those in whom Christ dwells will increasingly display Christ-like character in their lives.  

The word examine comes from the Greek word, peirazo, which means to “scrutinize and try.” When Paul instructed the Corinthians to examine themselves, he was not trying to cast doubt over their salvation. Rather, he was urging them to take an honest and careful look into their current beliefs and conduct. Instead of becoming presumptuous or merely going with the flow, the Corinthians are to prayerfully consider what they believe about Jesus and whether they still believe what they believe since the time they received the Gospel.

Likewise, whether we are spiritually young or have been a Christian for decades, there is always room to develop greater confidence and faith in what we believe with regards to God and his Word. Instead of blindly following tradition or naively believing what we read or hear, we should take steps to grow in our understanding and appreciation of the apostolic faith that has been passed down to us. It will also be of much help to ourselves and others if we can strengthen our ability to explain our Christian convictions as well as to discern erroneous teaching and unscriptural practices.   

Apart from examining their beliefs, the Corinthians were also to reflect upon whether their lives are consistent with God’s will. If Christ is truly in their lives, their conduct and attitudes towards sin will be different as compared to when they were pagans. As people who have placed their faith in Jesus, they are to hate sin and humbly repent of it. They should also be eager to do what is right before God and demonstrate sincere love for others. If sin and unrighteousness persistently characterise their lives, there is a possibility that they are being disobedient Christians but there is a greater danger that they are not Christians at all.

For Paul, he was hopeful that since Christ is truly in the lives of the Corinthians, the latter would humbly repent as they examine themselves. He took heart that when they do so, there would be no need for him to be severe in exercising his pastoral authority over them (2 Cor 15:10).

Just as we need a test kit and need to know how to use it to properly test for Covid-19, Christians are mindful that we need God’s help to properly examine ourselves. Apart from having godly friends who can speak into our lives, a good place to start would be to set aside regular time for prayer, bible reading and to echo the Psalmist’s prayer to “Search me, O God and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Like the Psalmist, we can trust that our gracious God has no intention to crush us through a regular time of self-examination. Because God loves those whom he has saved, he will direct our paths so that we can continue walking in the fullness of life and not stray away from him.

Self-testing for Covid-19 is only but a very limited way to indicate physical well-being since it is not meant to pick up any other health issues. The test kit is also unable to prevent someone from falling sick or help a person in his recovery. In contrast, regular self-testing to see if we are in the faith is God’s means of grace in building Christians up in the faith and enabling us to continue bearing spiritual fruit to the glory of his name. As much as the time of self-testing may not always be a pleasant experience, it is certainly needful for our spiritual well-being. No Christians can do without it, not unless we are not one to begin with.

Rev Edwin Wong

September 19, 2021