Pandemic: Love and Choices
Today there are questions the Church/you are suddenly being confronted with—questions that are not easily answered—questions like; will we continue meeting as a Church, will we be going on this missions trip, should we continue to have our seniors meet together, should we still have this conference, this event, will we be having those responsible to caring for our children, youth, adults tested for covid-19 before we allow them to serve…? These are questions worth asking and praying about as we make our way through this pandemic yet sadly it seems that these questions are not being prayerfully considered.
There is a tendency within the Church to respond with a caviler attitude, a beat our chest and pontificate about faith verses fear and the need to trust God as we walk through the Valley of the Shadow of covid-19. The focus being on us not being afraid, us not giving into fear and continuing forward as just we always have —trusting in God. This all sounds quite noble and impressive but is it?
The truth is covid-19 is not easily detected but is easily transmitted so as I can be bravely make my way through an airport, grocery store, visit another State, attend Church, travel to a conference, hugging dear friends and spreading the virus all along the way because I do not know I have covid-19 as I am experiencing no symptoms. SO instead of being a source of salt, light, an agent of love, I am bringing the chaos of this illness and possible death to countless other individuals and families as those I infect continue to infect others. This is how we got were we are today.
Now is the time to ask what is the loving thing to do for the sake of others within and outside the Church, for our weaker sisters or brothers with health issues, for those whose bodies are weakened by age? What does self-sacrificial love look like during a pandemic?
When I started asking questions about what would be the loving thing to do in terms of loving my neighbor, loving others, I was finally able to get my focus off myself and with that distance make some difficult decisions regarding traveling to present at a gathering of spiritual directors in another State, how to teach my classes, how to meet with people for spiritual direction? You see I was that Christian walking with a swagger, having great confidence and faith in God. I was going to boldly walk through airports, board planes, hug others, touch my face, because God is with me—I fear no one and no thing—not even death!
Yet this is not a Christ-like attitude. Paul articulates the attitude of Jesus very well in Philippian 2:3-8 which reads; Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
I had been stuck in a self-center/self-referencing mindset but this passage brought a needed refocusing as it speaks about regarding others more important than oneself, becoming obedient to the of death and for Jesus this meant death on a cross. But maybe the death for this season is the death of my desires, rights to do what I want to do, to have life as it always has been—travel here, go there, gather in large groups like Church, hug others, touch my face.
So instead of moving forward as if nothing is happening I am fostering and encouraging social distancing and the forgoing of gathering, traveling, conference attending, hugging…. I choose this because of love and from a healthy fear of the damage I could do if I continue on as if nothing is happening.
I serve and love others by exercising restraint—not regarding my desires, my plans, my preferences a thing to be grasped but becoming obedient to Love and seeking to follow as God leads. I own my limited wisdom and acknowledge I do not know how to proceed and so I put everything on the table—mission trips, Church services, senior gatherings, conferences…all of which I am willing to cancel, postpone, retool because of love. Also because I do not know what I do not know, in this season, I am choosing to error on the side of caution.
For now, this is NOT life as usual and so we need to discover the new wine and the new wineskins for this season. Let us trust in the God of creativity to lead and guide us so we can continue to love in deed and truth. And let us resist the temptation to rationalize irresponsible decisions using the rhetoric of trusting God and walking by faith.
Christ have mercy. Triune God grant us wisdom to love and serve others well.
What does it look like to love those inside and outside the Church in this season?
What might I need to let go of, let die, in this season in order to love and serve others well?
How might I do things differently given the current need for social distancing?
What does Church, small groups look like at this time?
What might be the new wine and new wineskins now needed as we move through this time?
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