I’ve been asking God, others and myself what it actually means to live like Jesus might in this current crisis.
My mother passed along to our family the story of her godly grandmother who, during the Depression, felt that God was calling her to care for a neighbor woman and her children the next farm over who were sick with tuberculosis, then a deadly disease, so that her husband could bring in the desperately needed harvest.
My great-grandmother and her husband prayed about it and decided that, if Jesus told us to love our neighbor, then she really had no choice but to care for them. So for months she courageously devoted herself to them. Miraculously, the neighbor woman and her family fully recovered. However, my great-grandmother caught the disease, and when she returned to her own family, she gave it to two of her children. All three of them died.
Our first reaction to a story like this is, “What a tragedy!”
I don’t think God sees it that way. Who but God himself knows how the children of the family that lived turned out? Did they go to live virtuous and faithful lives, blessing even more people? I have no idea. One could ask, “What about those who died – what might they have done had they lived?” Was this just one more senseless death or the plan of God for some greater good? We can’t really know, and this is where the rubber meets the road when we determine to follow Jesus when is tough. Even if we don’t understand, can we really trust God “to work out all things for the good of those how love him?” (My paraphrase of Romans 8:28)
I’ve often wondered how many hundreds of thousands of small, selfless, Christ like decisions one has to make, to get to the point where we’re willing to lay down our life for another as my great-grandmother did.
As his children, it’s rare that we’re ever privileged to see the whole chain reaction our obedience sets off in the lives of others, or theirs in ours. Nor does God expect us to understand the big picture. To risk another cliché, Jesus simply expects us to trust and obey.
Night after night, I’ve watched stories on the news of courageous health care workers, literally risking their lives and those of their own families to save others from death by Covid. It’s too easy just to applaud them for their heroism, and not think deeply about what you and I could do – what Jesus himself might do in this, our crisis of faith.
1. The first and most obvious thing we can do is follow the advice of our health care professionals. I really don’t want to get into a debate with the anti-mask crowd, so just read my blog on this subject. The point is, if we really care about the doctors and nurses who are risking their lives for us, and they think masking up and distancing will help them, then for heaven’s sake, let’s just do it! For them, this isn’t a political statement, it’s their life. Why take a chance with their lives because you don't like wearing a mask, or like the government telling you how to live. It’s not about us. "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Phil. 2:4
2. Pray for all medical personnel daily until this crisis passes.
3. Do not hoard. Rather, give stuff away. Call older at-risk people you know and offer to purchase for them things they need, or give them out of your own supply.
4. Distance socially, but not relationally. Take a few minutes to let the Holy Spirit put on your mind the names, or faces of people who live alone, and call them. These are lonely times and Netflix and Facebook will never replace a friendly human voice. Be the voice of Jesus to the lonely.
5. Share your wealth with people you know are struggling. There are people right in your church who’ve been laid off. Call them and ask how you can help. If you don’t know who needs help, call your pastor. I’m sure he/she does. It’s not that complicated. I’ve begun doubling what I normally tip restaurant workers, who have half the customers they used to have.
6. It may be that a friend, neighbor or relative gets hospitalized and they need someone to care for their children. Will we love them enough to put ourselves or our families at risk to either move in to care for them, or take them into our homes? Do we even need to ask what Jesus would do?
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
Some Christian leaders have declared this pandemic, God’s punishment. I'm not so sure. It might just be his test to sort the true servants from those who wish to be masters, or sheep from the goats.