We are now 45 days into the government shut down due to COVID-19. Although some states are gradually opening up, it will admittedly be some time before we’re back to some sense of normalcy, which some are calling a “new normal.”
It may be another month before some states will allow churches to resume public assemblies. When will sports venues open? Or theme parks? Or concert halls? How long will people be wearing masks? Social distancing? Or working from home? When will we be able to cross the Canadian border? Travel to Europe? To take an Alaskan cruise? Who knows?
Throughout all of this we’ve all heard a phrase parroted by politicians, pundits, and people from every walk of life including professional athletes, pop movie stars and posts on facebook. “We’re all in this together.”
I understand it’s an expression of solidarity designed to encourage us. Bring us together. To remind us that our lives are interconnected. And that my adherence to government mandates benefits all of us, while my disregard may hurt all of us.
While older people, those with health problems and certain demographics are apparently more vulnerable to the virus, it can attack anyone. Rich and poor. Young and old. Famous and average folks. Entertainers Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson got COVID-19. So did Rachel Matthews. And sports announcer Doris Burke. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince Charles were tested positive. Rand Paul became the first US Senator to contract COVID-19. Yes, we’re all in this together.
Or, are we?
The reality is different in geographical sections of the country and even various parts of states are not impacted equally. As a result there are conflicting opinions among honest people regarding the restrictions and whether to open or not to open up the country. Southeast Florida has been hit hard, while parts of northern Florida have escaped relatively unscathed.
Everyone’s situation is not the same. Faces of famous people on TV telling us “we’re all in this together,” ring hollow as they return to their mansions and sprawling estates. 30 million Americans are now unemployed, while others are still receiving a paycheck. Some parents are sequestered with small children. Others are all alone. And some couples are doing fine.
As a personal example, Norma Jean and I are richly blessed. We came to the Smoky Mountains for a two week stay before my Spring meetings and a trip to Canada. Since the meetings were postponed, and trip to Canada is on hold, the two weeks has turned into five weeks and counting. But we’re doing fine. Every morning we wake up to a beautiful mountain view.
We’re pretty much “sheltering in place,” but there’s hardly anyone up here. We can take a walk. Go to a near by grocery store with no lines. Get delicious carry out food at a local restaurant. And now we can even eat-in at several restaurants. Throughout all of this, our Social Security checks have been deposited on time. So, I doubt someone in New York City who’s unemployed and isolated in a little apartment would say to us, “We’re all in this together.”
What’s my point?
As Christians, we need to “care for one another,” practice the second great commandment and demonstrate Christ-like compassion toward our friends, neighbors and brethren. Not everyone is in the same situation. We need to creatively “bear one another’s burdens” during this current crisis.
Sadly partisan politics and vastly conflicting personal opinions are filling social media posts. If we’re not careful, we can unwittingly alienate others with our strongly held views on the policies of our politicians. Or the decisions made by pastors, preachers and church leaders.
This is a time to practice patience, show kindness and “cut others a little slack.” Ugly tweets and inflammatory facebook posts are the opposite of pursuing peace with all people. My reality during this present distress is not your reality. And your reality is probably vastly different from a friend or brother across the state, county or world.
Furthermore, for those who’ve not been seriously impacted financially, we might ask: “How can I help?” And “Who needs my help?”
Finally, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4)
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman