BY REV. RUSSELL MUILENBURG - HOPE REFORMED CHURCH
If you are like me, you are tired of talking about the coronavirus. You are tired of news reports that focus on it; you are tired of the seemingly endless debates about the best responses to it; and you are especially tired of the way it is disrupting your life. It would be nice, maybe, to read a column about something else. But the coronavirus continues to affect the way we live, so it seems that the thing we keep talking about needs to be the thing I write about here.
It is becoming increasingly clear that we are going to have to find a way to go on with life even while the coronavirus remains an active threat to public health. I am not qualified to weigh in on medical matters, politics, or the economy; but what I can do is think about how the Bible applies to current situations. Along those lines, I offer the following thoughts:
1. The priority of mutual concern
In 1 Corinthians 12:25 the Apostle Paul writes: "that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other."
Something that is clear in this situation is that people have different needs and concerns when it comes to public gatherings. Whether it is risk factors, risk tolerance, or personal conviction people are at different places on the spectrum of what kind of groups they feel comfortable joining and how they are likely to behave in those groups.
One of the things needed right now, then, is a mutual concern for the needs and priorities of others. Those who are eager for things to open up and return to normal as quickly as possible need to be patient with those who are more cautious. Similarly, those who are hesitant to participate in gatherings need to be empathetic and understanding of those who need to interact with others.
2. The priority of harmony
Colossians 3:14-15 says: "Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts," (NLT).
There is no shortage of opinions about the best response to the virus; and those opinions can serve as a source of great division. It is possible that those who are more cautious about returning to public gatherings will look at those who do as being reckless. It is possible that those who are ready for life to return to normal will look at those who remain at home as being fearful. It is possible that when we talk about these things — whether it is on social media or even just within our own families — that we will be tempted to put down or even insult those who feel differently than us.
And so, it is important for all of us to seek after peace. That might mean that I keep quiet about my convictions. It might mean that I seek to limit my conversations to topics of a less controversial nature. It might mean letting a comment pass without rebuttal or response. It might mean telling my own heart to set aside every attitude and thought except love for God and others. As one commenter put it: "Promoting harmony is a fruit of dying to self. ... It is not my life's goal to have you agree with me. It is my life's goal to love you."
3. The priority of putting others first
Finally, Philippians 2:3-4 says: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."
I have not been perfect at social distancing, but I am definitely conscious of it. I do not put myself in very many gatherings. When I do: I wash my hands frequently, I stay out of other people's space, I wear a mask. It's not necessarily because I am convinced of the effectiveness of those things; but because they are simple ways that I can show my concern for others. As a Christian who is called to show my love for God by the way I love others, it seems like the least I can do.