Social unrest during this trying time is on the rise. Everyone seems to be concerned with the trajectory of today’s COVID-19 crises. As I look at the whole situation, a number of intersecting concerns come to mind.
First, I’m concerned about this serious disease. The virus is virulent, people are getting sick and some are dying. The danger is exacerbated when the infected has comorbidities.
Second, I’m concerned about those with other diseases who are not getting treated right now. Many are shunning help for fear of contracting the disease. In addition, as the social isolation continues, the population in general will become more vulnerable to pathogens because immune-building microbial exposure is being limited. To add to this all, there will likely be an increase in emotional instability. Relationships will likely be impacted causing family fragmentation.
Third, I’m concerned about the economy, not only locally, but also nationally and globally. As supply chains continue to sever and as businesses continue to lay people off, many will be hit with financial ruin.
Fourth, I’m really concerned about government overreach. This is a crisis that any little local “dictator” savors to use to grow their totalitarian overreach, excessive authority and power.
Fifth, I’m concerned that people are losing their “minds.” It seems many are losing control of their emotions, doing and saying things that are causing much social unrest that is nearing anarchy.
This last point is the reason for this article. I’m wanting to think about how Christians should respond and react to this time. Here are some of my thoughts.
There are many surrounding us who are truly in need. Many are sick, frightened, and emotionally distraught. Many, maybe including you, are struggling to make ends meet for survival. From the standpoint of our local community, local church body and family, we need to understand and empathize with those in authentic need. We need to try to understand before being understood.
We are Called to Love
Jesus raised the bar on love. He taught that we are not only to love our neighbors as ourselves, but to love our brothers and sisters as he loves us! Love goes beyond empathy and understanding, it is full of action and it is active. Each person and each situation will be different. For some, maybe we are called to keep things going, and for others, maybe isolate to maximize their safety? Plus, are we living in a way so others have an example to follow?
Truth Ought to Be our Goal
If one is a perpetual peddler of “conspiracy theories” and crazy convoluted conclusions, why would we want to ever trust him or her? No Christian should be known as such; rather, we should be seen as the most truthful and trustworthy around. Believe me, this does not mean we should blindly believe the elite experts and pontificating politicians. They too have often been void of truth. So, how do we fight misinformation? Education. You have to roll up your sleeves and listen, read and research. Like most things, you can’t just listen to one “expert.” We need to pan the golden truth from multiple educated perspectives. Instead of being quick to share incomplete understanding and assumptions, humbly slow down and be ready to listen and morph with new information.
We are Called to Self Control
Temperance. That’s one part of the Spirit’s fruit. It is the opposite of explosive emotions and irrational behavior. It is the opposite of screaming at cops and brandishing guns at state houses. Temperance means to have self-control; it is being gentle, it is having a level head, it is slowing down, it is keeping cool and it is often extremely difficult to do. Difficult or not, it is so needed at this time. We need more who are quick to replace their irrational emotions for rational thinking.
Preparation for the Bad Times
The nationwide run on the toilet paper at the start of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic became a joke in every meme. It was quite annoying for the one whose scheduled restock date fell on this nationwide run. We can look back and see that those who lost their minds and those who were so ill prepared made it difficult for all. While a chuckle now is in order, this does raise a real issue. So many aren’t preparing in the times of plenty so they can face the times of paucity. Here’s a question, why don’t most people have the Dave Ramsey-like emergency fund? Why don’t most people have the essentials for survival stocked? Isn’t that a fruit of wisdom?
It is disappointing that so many are downright disrespectful to civil authorities. I’m not chastising people who are critiquing, criticizing and disagreeing authority, I’m talking about being disrespectful to authority. Leaders may be unrespectable, such as speaking and acting in an unrespectable manner. In fact, you and I may hate their policies and positions. But, aren’t we still called to respect their authority (Romans 13:1-7), and aren’t we called to pray for them (1 Timothy 2:1-4)? No doubt we all can point out those who are acting the part of little local dictators and we should hold them accountable for that. However, many are not doing such things; rather, they seem to be trying to serve others. Why are we so quick to forget to try to understand them in this situation? Consider if you were a councilman, a mayor, a congressman or a governor, your responsibility is much larger than just you and your family, right? Now you are responsible for those in your district. It’s like a teacher or a boss; it’s easy to point out their errors, and then when you are in their position, you see the stress and various complex decisions needed to be made.
Obey Unless it Contradicts God’s Authority
It’s not necessarily wrong to wear a mask. It may be less than helpful and it may be uncomfortable, but it does not seem to be evil. It’s not necessarily wrong to self-isolate and social distance; it is uncomfortable, but not really evil. It’s obviously always good to wash your hands often, cough and sneeze in your sleeve, stay home when sick, and not go touching everything after you were sucking your fingers. Now, if some local law goes against federal law and constitution, you have the right and privilege to sue in court (the legal topics go beyond the scope of this piece). Now, the concerns come if requests or demands go against God’s commands, who are you to obey? Obviously, your moral duty is to obey God’s ordinance over human ordinance. The first concern is biblical command to supply for one’s family. This is an important concern, but it goes beyond the scope of this piece. The second main concern I can think of are restrictions concerning gathering with other believers, and that’s my next point.
Focus on Cell Groups
Totalitarian states and communist countries really do impose real persecution. China is one of many that are cracking down on Christians gathering. The United States, and many other countries, Christian gatherings are not prohibited. Now, some gatherings may have to use online communities, sermon streaming, social media and videoconferencing. You still can call and write and email people. Remember, you still can have family Bible studies, and often groups of ten or less can still meet. Why do we feel so ticked that we would have to gather in cell groups as the early church gathered? We should be praising God that we aren’t living in persecution. I’m not minimizing all the questions and concerns I have, but instead I’m just trying to praise God for all the gifts that we still have (James 5:13, James 1:2, Philippians 4:4)! Lastly, we need to remember this is not Christian persecution. Some are illicitly thinking that, but Christians are not being singled out in this pandemic. Other events are prohibited too: sports events, conferences, and political rallies (besides the evil double standard of abortion clinics).
Want to make a change? Focus on the Small
It is fine to peacefully protest in front of government buildings, but going with guns brandished and yelling at cops and congressmen is not what we are called to do. Instead of irrationally losing your head, become the change you want to see. Focus on people around you, share your views with family, friends and coworkers. Focus on the small. Our natural tendency, however, is to focus on those highest positions of government. That’s where the “power” is, right? Well, yes and no. I think we often miss the importance of local authority. Who else better knows what a community needs than those who live in that community? We are not only allowed to vote, but encouraged to vote, so do take more interest in local government. Anyone can mail, email and call local leaders. In fact, you can join local leadership and help make decisions for your local community. Get involved by running for school boards, county boards, town councils, mayors, and other local offices.
Live With a Mind for Eternity, Not a Mind of Fear
Lastly, remember that this earth is not your home. With this in mind, be confident in Jesus because he’s not surprised about the tempests of our trials and fears. Remember, living for Jesus is not safe. We were forewarned it would be difficult and we are admonished to not live in fear but live with an eternal perspective. So, put away the bitterness and wrath, unforgiveness and anger, and selfishness and irrationality. We are called to truth, humility, temperance, love, mercy, forgiveness, gentleness, and respectfulness. Through this all, the Christian community can be a lantern of light and a harbor of hope to our dying world!
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