Christlike Neighbors During an Unending Pandemic
Well, here we are. 2020 has been something else. It’s difficult to fathom that earlier this year I was watching my favorite hockey team suffer another losing season before a crowd of booing spectators, enduring Sonic the Hedgehog in a movie theater, and annoying my wife in the grocery store by slowly inspecting each shelf as though it were a new exhibit at Musée du Louvre. Such memories belong to another lifetime, not a few flips of the calendar.
Another memory that now seems like a relic of a long-gone age is the “we’re all in this together” solidarity that reverberated from the bombshell arrival of COVID-19. For a brief moment, people took a break from their hateful bickering, enemies uniting (if only tenuously) to face a greater and deadlier foe. Yet, like New Year’s resolutions, good intentions often have short lifespans. Rather than uniting amidst the virus, society has merely incorporated the new reality into the old one, finding in COVID-19 a fresh battleground to continue feuding.
Is the virus the worst pandemic ever or just a political hoax? Are masks really the answer? Are churches foolish to resume meeting? Are churches foolish for not resuming meeting? Are working parents evil for sending their children back to school? Are parents damaging their children’s development by not sending them back to school? Do Republicans have the answers? Do Democrats? Strap on your gloves, step into your corner, wait for the bell to ring, and then come out swinging like Rocky Balboa.
A Good Neighbor
The Bible remains as relevant and timely today as it has always been. While we’re tossed and turned in the tempestuous sea of social media opinions, news networks, and talking heads, Christians should remain grounded in Scripture, the only source of wholly reliable truth and guidance. This Scripture passage is particularly relevant:
“But keep away from foolish and ignorant arguments; you know that they end up in quarrels. As the Lord’s servant, you must not quarrel. You must be kind toward all, a good and patient teacher, who is gentle as you correct your opponents, for it may be that God will give them the opportunity to repent and come to know the truth” (2 Timothy 2:23-25).
Christians live in the same pandemic-changed world as everyone else, but they should not behave the way unbelievers do. Here are three important reminders for Christians:
COVID-19 is more than an ideological quarrel.
Few things are more indicative of modern society than its capacity to reduce a global pandemic into an ideological team sport. Much of the difficulty and confusion surrounding the virus stems not from a lack of information but from an overabundance of it. Social media timelines are flooded with articles and memes using the same data to make opposing points or to belittle and mock those who disagree.
Staying informed is important. At the same time, Christians must remember that the virus is not a philosophical concept; it is a physical reality that is radically affecting—in ways seen and unseen—real people all around us. Rather than fight the good fight from our computers, one over-shared meme at a time, let us vigilantly be on the lookout for those who need Christ’s love and support.
Opinions on the virus should not become an all-consuming crusade.
This pandemic is a massive and life-altering reality of life, but it isn’t the only reality. Movie theaters and other businesses may be put on hiatus, but the Christian mission is as urgent and present now as ever before. Christians are called to make disciples of Christ, not converts to our passionate virus opinions.
Many who have routinely refrained from posting anything hinting at their religious conviction of Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6) out of concern for appearing “judgmental” have seemingly found little trouble preaching fire-and-brimstone sermons about their coronavirus opinions. There is something deeply amiss when Christians zealously crusade for the sake of the nation’s physical health but feel “it’s not really my place” to take a similar stance for the world’s spiritual wellbeing. For as bad as the virus is, eternal damnation is worse. Let’s make sure our actions and priorities reflect this fact.
Individual freedom is set aside for the Gospel’s sake.
There is amazing freedom in Christ, but this liberty is not the be-all and end-all of the Christian faith. Christians are set free so they may fully serve and worship a God who desires for all people to know Him (1 Tim. 2:4). The apostle Paul wrote, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible…I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:19, 23). Christians should be willing to set aside their individual freedoms to further God’s mission.
The world is watching Christians during this crisis. They’ve heard us say that God loves them, and the Church loves them. In this crucial moment of truth, don’t let your actions suggest that what we truly love is being “right,” winning cultural arguments, and relishing in our own independence and personal freedom. Instead, let the world see that the Church’s purpose is to love God and love people, pandemic or no pandemic.