As mortal beings, from the moment we are born we begin to physically die. Those among us who are wise, embrace the knowledge of our mortality, are grateful for each day of life we are given, and try to live our lives fully as God and Jesus command. Those among us who are foolish, do not. Once set in motion, the consequences of our decisions can be altered but not undone.
There are parallels between the knowledge of our mortality and the knowledge of Covid-19’s threat to human life. Those among us who are wise, use our knowledge of the virus to preserve and safeguard our lives and the lives of others. Those among us who are foolish, do not. Once set in motion, the consequences of our decisions can be altered but not undone.
Just as the course of people’s lives reveals their relationship to God, so too does their response to the Covid-19 pandemic reveal whether God is at the forefront of their thoughts and actions.
The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed individuals’ tendencies to either heed health warnings and live their lives unselfishly in obedience to God or ignore health warnings and act selfishly or defiantly in disobedience. These choices mirror their hearts. They reflect the extent to which individuals love others as much as they love themselves — and the extent to which they prioritize material wealth and worldly freedoms over God’s gift of life and obedience to Him. The Covid-19 pandemic tests our faith and asks each of us whether we are willing to prioritize personal sacrifices for the well-being of others — or whether we will act primarily out of self-interest and personal desire? How we answer this challenge lays bare our personal values. I recently observed a meme on social media that addressed this issue. It read: “Coronavirus has disclosed which of my friends care about others and which of my friends care only about themselves. I wonder how I appear to my friends.”
Jesus warns that those who act only out of self-interest at the expense of others are foolish and are acting contrary to the laws of God. When we act out of self-interest at the expense of others, we put love of “self” above love of God and each other – contrary to God’s command. To put it plainly, we disobey God.
Jesus teaches us to value all life that God has given. He encourages us to live our lives in service to others, even at great sacrifice to ourselves. If staying at home, distancing, or wearing masks may protect our lives and the lives of others, it is incumbent on us as followers of Christ to set a good example and to do what we can to prevent virus spread.
When Jesus lived among us in human form, He led by example. In obedience to God, a sinless Jesus allowed Himself to be tortured and crucified so that we could be forgiven our sins. In servitude to God, Jesus also taught, healed the sick, raised the dead, performed other miracles, and lived His life selflessly so that we could learn from His example and apply God’s laws to our daily lives.
One of my favorite examples of Jesus’s love and servitude is the story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet:
Jesus knew on the evening of Passover Day that it would be his last night on earth before returning to his Father. During supper the devil had already suggested to Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that this was the night to carry out his plan to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. And how he loved his disciples! So he got up from the supper table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his loins, poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him… After washing their feet he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Master’ and ‘Lord,’ and you do well to say it, for it is true. And since I, the Lord and teacher, have washed your feet you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow: do as I have done to you. How true it is that a servant is not greater than his master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends him. You know these things – now do them! That is the path of blessing.” (John 13:1-17)
After Jesus had washed His servants’ feet, Jesus commanded, “And so I am giving a new commandment to you now – love each other as I love you. Your strong love for each other will prove to the world you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35) The manner and extent to which we manifest our love for each other reveals whether we are true followers of Jesus — or whether we are followers of Jesus in name only.
When we are asked to take measures such as staying at home, distancing ourselves, and wearing masks in public to minimize the spread of life-threatening viruses, we are really being asked to demonstrate our love for the lives of others, consistent with how Jesus demonstrated His love for us. And compared with Jesus’ torture and crucifixion on our behalf, we are not really being asked very much.
In addition to Jesus’s admonishment to love and serve one another, the Bible also commands us to respect the laws of governments to the extent they do not conflict with the laws of God. “Obey the government, for God is the one who has put it there. There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power. So those that refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow.” (Romans 13:1-2) In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, this applies to public health guidelines that are designed to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus among ourselves and the most vulnerable in our society. To those who might chafe at federal, state, or local mandates to stay-at-home, wear masks, or social distance, it would be wise to remember that the command to comply with the laws of the land is God-given and non-negotiable, except to the extent worldly law violates the laws of God. (“But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29)
Whether we please God through love, service, and obedience ultimately depends on our faith, which determines our actions and inaction. Simply put, God’s pleasure or displeasure with us is a consequence of the exercise of our free will. God has given each of us the freedom to obey or disobey Him, but for each decision we make we are accountable to Him. Even though our mistakes may be forgiven as a result of God’s grace and mercy, we must live with the consequences of what we have done or not done. In other words, mistakes may be forgiven, but the consequences of our mistakes remain.
The human spirit in all of us yearns for freedom. During a lifetime of world travel and exposure to diverse government institutions and religions, I have come to realize that God’s gift of “free will” is the truest measure of freedom that can be found. However, freedom of choice comes with great Christian responsibility – to God and for the well-being of others. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the manner in which we exercise our free will is a true measure of our faith – and a measure of the priorities we’ve chosen. It is an opportunity for all to change our priorities as commanded, and to serve as examples of God’s love for us all.
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