With all of the mass hysteria surrounding COVID-19, it can be hard for anyone to stay calm and sane. Whose advice do we heed? Are the public policies and local measures being put in place truly protecting our communities or simply encouraging widespread paranoia?
As Christians, this particular season of pandemic may, at times, make us feel confused, isolated, or even hopeless. I urge each of us, as followers of Christ, to take a deep breath and remember Jesus’s many acts of love in times of difficulty, in an effort to continue spreading radical Christian love and not give into fear.
Jesus spent his days and nights during his earthly ministries catering to the sick, the elderly, the widowed, and the outcasts of society. Jesus approached these lonely, abandoned individuals with no hesitation, instead sharing his time to heal and comfort them. Jesus did not harbour suspicion against these individuals and never once spoke a malicious word against these outcasts of society. Rather, he chose to personally extend help where possible, often shocking passive onlookers and passersby in the process.
With the advent of social media and its unmistakable omnipresence in our lives, the rampant blasting of news (real and fake, important and not-so-important) can quickly drown out any attempts at reason and drive whole hordes of people to prioritise their own survival, acting purely on animal instinct.
But what does the Bible teach on fear? John writes:
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18
Our love is grounded in the confession of Jesus as the Son of God and the example of God’s love for us. God is love. Christian life is consequently founded on the knowledge of God as love and on his continuing presence that relieves us from fear.
So, how do we combat fear and paranoia? By asking God to fill up our hearts with His love – the only balm of true peace that can soothe fearful souls. With God, we are strengthened and can continue our Christian work of proclaiming and living out God’s word through consistent, conscious acts of love. Love drives out fear. God drives out fear. Our choice to love instead of perpetuating hate and suspicion testifies that it is our almighty God, and not fear, who rules in our lives.
As Christians living through today’s bizarre reality of a pandemic with no clear end in sight, it is our calling to strive, each and every day, to continue showing up for our brothers and sisters in need – with a love that is sincere, authentic, and merciful.
The next time you are in the supermarket and see a glorious fresh batch of hand sanitisers, surgical masks, and vitamins, think of our brothers and sisters whose age and health conditions put them in a much more vulnerable state than you. Take for yourself sparingly, and share with others in more need. Have compassion and pray for our healthcare workers, who endanger themselves everyday on the frontlines of this battle. Offer those who are sick and in isolation words of comfort and encouragement. If you are unwell and might expose others around you to sickness, do an act of kindness and love by refraining from participating in large gatherings – even if it means missing Sunday mass – until you recover.
After all, the knowledge that Christ has saved us gives us confidence, even as we live, love, and suffer in this world. Yet, Christian love is not abstract but lived in the concrete manner of how we love one another. Let us take courage and proclaim God’s love in our communities, and arm ourselves against fear with Christly acts of love and kindness.
God bless you all.
By Mikaela Oen, CFJ Head of Fellowship