This article was originally published on The Gospel Coalition Canada, Loving One Another through a COVID-19 Pandemic, written by Christel Humfrey.
Pandemics can make us feel helpless and afraid. I recently saw a meme going around social media of Jean-Luc Picard bracing for impact on the starship Enterprise and the caption read “How I wake up every morning”. I think this sentiment is one we can all relate to.
The anticipation of worse things to come is exhausting and deflating. But perhaps our perspective would change if we saw Covid-19 as an opportunity to show Christ’s love to hurting people? Imagine what would happen if the church rose up en masse in this hour of need to offer practical help and real hope to vulnerable people?
Believers are called to more than fearful self-preservation. We are called to “love one another” because “God is love” and he has shown us love when he “sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 Jn. 4:7-8). This ‘love’ has been a defining characteristic of the church since the beginning. As one of my friends noted on Facebook,
“In the past, when there were pandemics (such as the black death, the Great Plague of London in 1665-6, or the Spanish flu), the church was at the front lines, helping patients and the society both medically and spiritually.”
Our current cultural context will determine the manner in which we express our love, but what if we saw this pandemic as an opportunity to creatively and intentionally show Christ’s love to our neighbours?
1. Follow the health measures put in place to slow the spread of the virus.
One practical way we can show love to our neighbours is by adhering to the guidelines put in place by public health officials. Even if you are young and healthy (and very likely to have a mild case of the coronavirus), be willing to practice ‘social distancing’, hand-washing and isolation when sick. Yes, it is super-inconvenient—but it could save the lives of the vulnerable around you.
2. Keep an eye out for those hit hard by the loss of income or childcare.
With the new measures in place, people will lose income that they can’t afford to lose. Single parents in particular may be hit hard by the loss of childcare. Families struggling with sickness may lack the resources they need to care for their families.
Are there practical ways we can help? Perhaps meal packages, childcare or financial gifts would be a huge blessing. Perhaps you can offer to shovel their driveway or drop off some greatly-sought-after-but-elusive toilet paper rolls.
When we have our eyes open for practical ways we can bless others, we promote hope instead of despair and display Christ’s love to a watching world.
3. Reach out to people through phone calls, texts and social media.
I think we underestimate the power of words to “encourage the fainthearted” and “help the weak” (1 Thess. 5:14). When we check in with our friends and family through phone calls, texts and social media, we can strengthen them to face struggles ahead.
A listening ear is powerful. Sometimes people need to vent their fears and struggles and we shouldn’t be too quick to give pat answers.
Death is scary to contemplate. What would happen to our loved ones if we died? What would happen to us if someone we depend on dies? But the Apostle Paul is clear when he writes to the Thessalonians. We are not people without hope and we shouldn’t grieve as those who are uninformed about what happens after we die (1 Thess. 4:13). We believe that Jesus died and rose again securing our eternal salvation.
Paul describes our hope this way:
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:16-18).
There is no quick-fix for Covid-19 and the road ahead looks bumpy. But the church has an opportunity to respond with faith and love.
Perhaps in the midst of horrific illness and death, testimonies of spiritual life and health will breathe hope into our suffocating isolation.
Perhaps instead of clawing fear, the gospel will bring the peace that passes understanding.
Perhaps instead of self-preservation, we will see selfless acts of love that testify to a greater reality that the one immediately before our eyes.
And perhaps there is reason for hope after all.