An opinion piece about loving your neighbor in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.
When I walked into the gym this morning, the instructor of the group fitness class I was attending politely asked me to wipe down the bike I would be using before and after I used it. “Sure thing,” I said. She smiled at me and thanked me for being so understanding. It seemed odd she felt the need to thank me for doing something so trivial, but then I understood when the next person walked into the room and rolled her eyes when presented with the same request.
I belong to the YMCA and there are several elderly people who also belong. There are also a lot of kids who play sports and attend after-school programs. There are moms who recently gave birth. There are people recovering from serious diseases that left their immune systems compromised. These people are vulnerable, but, just like the rest of us, are still in need of exercise (and community).
Then there are people like me, relatively young and healthy and just looking for a good workout. And these are the people I want to address–my demographic. Folks, quit rolling your eyes when you’re asked to take an extra step or two for the sake of hygiene. Also, please have a little more understanding when church services, social events, flights, etc. are cancelled (as painful and disruptive as these things may be).
This Is About Loving Your Neighbor
It’s up to us–those who aren’t necessarily at risk of being seriously affected by the coronavirus–to do whatever we can to help those who are vulnerable. This is the least we can do. Being circumspect in this season is how we can love our neighbors as ourselves.
Personally, I haven’t been all that affected by the virus. My daily routine is virtually undisturbed. But I know people who have been seriously inconvenienced. For instance, my supervisor took a trip to Italy before the quarantines in that country were in place. Her mother-in-law also passed away during that time, and upon reentry to the U.S., she and her husband realized they should self-quarantine. They had to make the painful decision not to attend the funeral due to the risk they might present to all of the elderly people who would likely be present. Imagine missing your mother’s funeral because you unwittingly ran into a virus and didn’t want to expose others who may be vulnerable to it.
This is loving your neighbor.
Pastor Craig Groeschel made a similar decision to self-quarantine after traveling to Germany for a conference. It’s not easy spending 14 days by yourself, which he has stated multiple times. He’s experienced loneliness and frustration. Yet he felt the need to protect his family and his congregation from being exposed.
This is being a responsible human being who cares about the people around you. This is practicing common sense.
Stop Judging Other Churches
Another thing I want to address is all the judgment being placed on churches for the decisions they are making regarding services. At ChurchLeaders, we read a lot of comments on social media concerning the stories we write and curate. I can’t tell you how many comments I’ve seen all over the internet (a lot of them, unfortunately, coming from fellow believers) mocking Bethel Church for their decision to tell their students to hold off on visiting hospitals to pray and lay hands on people for faith healing. Believe me, I understand the irony of the situation. You may have your theological disagreements with Bethel Church, but please don’t mock them for following the advice of medical experts and practicing common sense.
Every church is going to have to decide in the coming weeks whether or not it needs to stop meeting publicly and move to online services. We all need to understand that this is a community-specific decision that congregations need to make for themselves (unless, of course, the local government mandates you suspend services). Let’s stop insinuating that those ministers who decide it’s in the congregation’s best interest to suspend services for a while lack faith or are giving into panic.
I found a Twitter thread that was very encouraging in the midst of all the confusion and opinions. Tish Harrison Warren, a minister in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, gave some insight into what goes into a church’s decision to suspend services for a period. Warren writes: