• Dean Thompson

Loving Thy Neighbor Amid a Global Pandemic

The pandemic caused by COVID-19 has certainly been around much longer than anyone could have imagined. There were some who said that it would last a mere couple of weeks while others surmised that it would be around for a couple of months. But here we are, more than a year later, and the battle still rages on.


Over the last year, there has been a contentious and sharp divide over those who agree to wear masks, get vaccinated, and stay socially distanced versus those who don’t. Even among many who profess to be Christians, they are out in front saying they won’t comply with their state’s COVID-19 protocols for various reasons (see Rom. 13:1-5).


Some see mask and vaccine mandates as government overreach or even something as extreme as the “mark of the beast.” Others have a lack of trust in their government and think the pandemic is fake. What’s even more extreme is a religious leader in Tennessee telling his members that people who come to service with a mask on will be kicked out.


Where is the Love?


Among all of the hysteria it’s important to ask, where is the love? In order for us to make it out on the other side of any crisis, including the situation that we are currently in, we must have love for one another. So, what does that look like? Look at the words of Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40 when He was asked about the greatest commandment in the law:


“37 ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (NKJV, emp. added).

The word “love” here means “to be full of good-will and exhibit the same, to have a preference for or to regard the welfare of others.” Simply put, love is doing what’s best for others. Love compels us to consider the needs of others ahead of our own (Phil. 2:3,4).


As this pandemic still rages on with the spread of the Delta variant, we must show love for one another by taking the necessary steps to keep everyone safe. It’s high time that we stopped bickering about the issue of vaccines and mask wearing but exemplify our love “in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Rather than arguing, we need to reconcile our differences and show more love for each other.


God Uses Men to Accomplish His Will


Just like many others today who think God is the only one who is going to end this pandemic, I was skeptical at first about getting the COVID-19 vaccine (note: if you don’t want to get vaccinated, that’s your right). But I thought it would be in my best interest-as well as others-to get vaccinated for a number of reasons. I do believe that God is the only who can end this pandemic. Have you ever considered that He could be working through men to do exactly that?


Open your Bibles and notice some examples of God working through men to accomplish His will:


  • God used Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah to positively influence the Chaldeans (Dan. 1:17, 4:37)

  • God tasked workers to build His tabernacle (Ex. 35:30-35)

  • God gave Solomon more wisdom and understanding than he could ever dream of (1 Kings 4:29-34)

  • Elisha sent a messenger to Naaman and commanded that he dip in the Jordan seven times for healing (2 Kings 5:1-14)

  • Jesus, who was God in the flesh (John 1:1,2,14), told His disciples to save those who are lost (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15,16)


This is by no means an exhaustive list, but we see God using people to fulfill His will all throughout the annals of Biblical history. So, why can’t He do that today? Don’t limit God. He has shown us love time and time again through various modes of healing (Spanish flu, Polio, swine flu, etc.), and I don’t see this time as being any different (2 Chron. 7:14).


Love is What Love Does


Since we know what God can do, it’s time for us to do our part and consider one another in love and humility and unite to end this pandemic. Consider the approach the early church took when Rome was faced with an epidemic in the 4th century. The church historian Eusebius records that “all day long [Christians] tended to the dying and to the burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them. Others gathered together from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to them all.” As a result, Eusebius concludes, “[the Christians’] deeds were on everyone's lips, and they glorified the god of the Christians” [1].


This is what loving our neighbor looks like! When people rally together and take care of other’s needs, then their deeds will inevitably be spoken of by the masses. Don’t get me wrong, there have been great examples of people showing love and kindness towards others during this pandemic, but more can be done in order to get on the other side with COVID-19 in our rearview.


So, again I ask, what does this look like? If you don’t want to get the vaccine, that’s your right. But, in my opinion, there should not be a debate over mask wearing. It’s a simple gesture that has been proven to keep others safe. Let’s not point fingers at each other or our government leaders but instead work to consider each other in love and in good works. Let’s strive to love as Jesus taught (Matt. 22:37-40). In short, don’t just TALK about it, BE about it because at the end of the day, love is what love does.

Sources


[1] Eusebius, The Church History, trans. Paul L. Meier (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007), 293.


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