Love your neighbor by staying home.

I don’t work in a primary sector. In this stage of life, my primary contribution to the world is my heart and my words. My whole long life, my mouth has gotten me into trouble, but some time ago I committed to learn how to use my words for good; redeeming the days, such as they are. Those upcoming words I promised a few days ago, about how perfection is off the table, but goodness is still available – those words are still going to come. But they will be tone deaf if I don’t use my words first to acknowledge what’s happening, and encourage anyone in my little circle of influence to consider what extending goodness can look like right now. 

This coronavirus thing in all the memes and social feeds you see, on all the news channels and minds of everyone you know – it’s not hype, and it’s not an overreaction. If you are prone to view precaution an overreaction, if you don’t read anything else, please read this, from the head of infectious disease and the National Institute of Health. This article from the Boston Globe describes the situation in Italy as of 3 days ago. There are anesthesiologists weeping in hallways because they’re having to make complex ethical decisions way above any of our pay grade about which lives to save, and which not to save, because there are too many sick people to treat, and not enough supplies to treat them all.

The author spoke about the lackadaisical approach that was well-meaningly, but ignorantly, first applied, and that we across the Atlantic are still applying. “Warmly encouraging working from home” vs mandatory quarantines. Allowing movie theaters to remain open – with caps of 50 though! be reasonable! – rather than making the admittedly economically crippling cost of shutting it all down.

If you keep hearing “flatten the curve” but aren’t quite sure what it means, there’s some great info here. Because if everyone gets sick at once, if our hospitals are inundated all at once, that’s when we get the weeping physicians having to make choices of life and death. If people get sick in a bit of a slower, more staggered fashion – or even not at all – the influx of cases requiring hospitalization is slowed, which means the needed medical supplies like ventilators, etc., are available for the needed amount of patients. If we can stem the surge a bit by staying home rather than going out, there is hope to avoid those situations. If we don’t, as we can learn from our neighbors across the globe right now, we will experience losses far worse than economic crippling.

Now, I am a follower of Jesus Christ; I believe He is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, sent in love from the Father to redeem our beautiful but fallen world from the bondage of sin. The love of God is why I aim to live a life of love. It comes from Him, through Him, and unto Him. It informs how I love my neighbor. Listen, okay?

This is what loving your neighbor looks like right now: if your job doesn’t require your in-person presence, stay home (and if you are those employers, thank you). If your pantry is stocked to sustain the needs of your family over next series of weeks (which means you minimize exposure by not shopping, as well as leave enough on the shelves for your neighbor), stay home. For the love of your neighbor – your regular neighbor, your elder neighbor, your silently immunocompromised neighbor, your economically disadvantaged neighbor, your single parent neighbor with school-aged children – stay home.

I am very grateful that I belong to a church whose leaders made the difficult but wise decision to shut down in-person services this weekend, and offer services over livestream instead. I have beloved friends who either work for or attend churches whose leaders have not made that decision yet, and so each day they’re still potentially interacting with a number of people who may be carrying Covid19 without yet showing symptoms. There are some hard decisions that many leaders will have to make in the upcoming weeks, because we’re still a few weeks behind Europe in terms of peak cases.

If you are in a position wherein your love to God and neighbor is extended from a position of authority or leadership over a church, a small group, etc., I implore you to consider the ramifications of gatherings of any size right now – play that situation a few weeks out in your head – and send your people home instead. Not forever – just for now. That’s not a fearful decision. That’s not a faithless decision. That is using the wisdom God has given us in evidence-based epidemiology and good ol’ common sense. “‘God has not given us a spirit of fear,’ so we don’t need to cancel services” – no, God has not given us a spirit of fear, so we don’t need our decisions to be based on a fear of decreased giving, or a stall in the momentum of our latest series, or on a fear of what will happen to the community we’ve built. It is God’s church. It always has been. The gates of hell will not prevail against her. Feel free to boldly proclaim our love of neighbor by protecting them from exposure to a potentially lethal, community acquired virus. There are so many ways to share the love without sharing germs.

– Call or text your neighbor, make sure their pantry is stocked too. If not, leave what they need on a porch drop.

– Call or text your fearful neighbor; encourage them, pray with them, listen to them, laugh with them. It’s good for your mutual mental health.

– Purchase a gift card to the local restaurants you would normally eat at, because it takes all members of a community to keep it going, just like it takes all parts of a body to keep it going.

– Call or text your fellow hibernating friends; use a video app and play a board game together, or vent and fret, but end it with prayer, because panic is counterproductive.

– Take a socially distanced walk, get fresh air, pick flowers, listen to birds. Describe it in detail to your neighbors that can’t easily get out when you call them, and ask them what their favorite outdoor things are. Listen to them as they paint you their picture.

– Send a funny podcast to your friends. Make a podcast if you’re funny. I don’t even like podcasts, but if you make me laugh, I’ll listen to it.

We really can do this, if we somewhat frame it to ourselves as a type of extended sabbath that also includes unexpected homeschooling, working from home, and a practice in frugality. As Calvin’s (of Hobbes, not of the Reformation) dad always used to say, ‘It builds character’. But we cannot pretend this isn’t happening. We cannot cloak social irresponsibility under the guise of faith.

Pray for your leaders; for their wisdom and discernment and strength and encouragement as they make the very hard decisions that land on their shoulders. Pray for wisdom and discernment and strength for everyone in positions of authority and decision making in our communities, government, and nation. Pray for those already suffering. Pray for the joy of our salvation to be a light and balm in time of need. We’ll all get through the next few months, but we need to practice common sense, and love in (stationary) action that will go a long, long way ❤. 

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