I had to come to the church last week to drop something off for Mason during the service. As I walked into the auditorium, the worship team was playing Forever Reign. My heart will sing, no other name, Jesus, Jesus… I stood still. That’s my worship posture. Perfectly still and eyes closed… weeping. I miss celebrating big when I can feel the music.
I have been at church during COVID, serving on worship team a few times. There is something entirely different, though, about standing in the congregation and being led in worship. I miss this.
COVID has changed almost everything. We have lost the luxuries and blessings of personal contact which are core to our community as church. If anything, church today looks a bit more like an underground church in a persecuted region. This is a season we are not used to.
In my work, where our non-profit serves seniors in housing and health care, we are on the front lines of the pandemic. I serve on our COVID Response Team, which has been 247 at times. Two of our seniors residences had COVID cases. In both situations we held the infections to single cases with no spread. Still, the impacts are profound when it strikes close to home.
One thing I have learned (relearned?) in leading through the outbreak: people are emotional in their decisions and response. In a time where there is so much focus on science and determining facts, we are gripped by our emotions. Our willingness to live with more or less risk, more or less contact, or more or less precaution is for many people an emotional decision. Here’s the problem: you can’t argue or logic your way over the emotional obstacle. I’ve seen it in my work and I’ve seen it at home. We must let people respond as individuals to an issue that affects us as a group.
This leads me to my most important pandemic principle: love others. Jesus said, “Love each other as I have loved you,” (John 15:12). Love each other. How? With sacrificial love just like God has loved us in Jesus. We can have our individual perspectives. We can be willing to take risks or disbelieve the media. We have the personal choice and freedom to do so. Here’s what we can’t do: we can’t put ourselves before others. That’s not following Jesus.
In humility, rather, we are to have the mind of Jesus. When we put ourselves ahead of others, we make wrong choices. The mind of Christ, in contrast to our selfishness, is to value others above ourselves. Now, more than ever, we need to follow Jesus in serving and loving our neighbours, family, and friends. “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,” (Philippians 2:3-4).
According to Dr. Bonnie Henry, on June 8, 2020, there were more new cases of COVID-19 worldwide than any other day since the pandemic started (over 136,000 new cases in one day). In other words, this is far from over. So how do we value others above ourselves, how do we look out for others’ interests, and how do we love each other like God loves us in a raging pandemic?
My reflections are:
- If I love others, I will understand that their feelings and emotions are theirs and I’ll respect them. I can share my convictions and facts, yet arguing won’t help. Love will do the talking.
- If I love my family, and I work as a frontline health worker, my adherence to using PPE, changing clothes before I go home, and washing my clothes daily will be a priority.
- If I love my elder family and friends, I will encourage them to stay home and I’ll deliver groceries if they need them.
- If I love other people in phase 2, I’ll wear a mask when I go out to stores or into the community.
- If I love my community, I’ll shop or eat local-owned to help those who are harder hit.
- If l love… (fill in this blank with your examples)
As much as COVID changes everything, it doesn’t change our mission or Jesus’ teaching, does it? As followers of Jesus, we should be used to self-sacrifice, yet when reducing spread of a virus cramps our style, we push back. Why? Because we, like everyone else, are emotional. So instead, let’s make it more about mission and less about emotion. Let’s make it more about the love of Jesus and less about COVID. Let’s make it more about the God I believe on and less about what I believe from the news.
Loving others is serving God. The added benefit is that loving others in the context of the pandemic will help continue to flatten the curve and get us closer to hugs and handshakes and what I really desire: feeling the music as I worship. I want to celebrate big again.
Written by Marc Kinna