Each day now, the impact of the virus spreads further across the globe. Countries are shutting their borders, hospitals are overflowing and tragic deaths are occurring. Alongside the tragic loss of life, we are seeing panic behaviours like stockpiling from toilet rolls to tomato sauce. Weddings, holidays, conferences and sporting events and more are being cancelled, causing much sadness and financial loss.
Central to much of the behaviour is also fear. Some fear is irrational, like the toilet paper hoarding. Other fear is not, such as for workers who fear being laid off, or the elderly or vulnerable who are at real risk if they contract the virus. A phrase commonly being quoted – for example by journalist Peter Fitzsimons – is from Franklin D Roosevelt during the Depression: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself“.
This is good advice to some degree. But as anyone who has struggled with fear or anxiety will know, sometimes the mind ‘has a mind of its own’. Sometimes it will not respond to positive thinking or our best efforts to remain calm and ‘at peace’ in the face of things we fear will or won’t happen.
What can we as Christians do?
Within the PeaceWise community, and as people committed to bringing grace and peace into the world, this is a great question for us to be asking.
A central calling of following Christ is to “love our neighbour as ourself” (Mark 12:31). What does this mean in the face of Coronavirus? Here are three thoughts:
- Make every effort to stay well ourselves
We can show our love for the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions by doing our best to stay well, so as not to overload our health system. As we know from Italy, their key problem is that the system is so swamped that there is no more room from the elderly.
- We can care for people practically
For those who are self-isolating, we can shop and drop off food. We can do chores for them, we can also talk to them about decisions they face and help them plan We can ask them what else we can do to help them while we wait for this intense period to finally pass.
- We can bring a peaceful presence to all we see
For those who are afraid, for example by hoarding or being aggressively self-protective, we can show another way. The Bible says that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” (1 John 4:18).
We can be calm and reassuring. We can stay in touch with people who are struggling. We can be generous sharers rather than frightened hoarders. We can be peacemakers when people fight because they are afraid, or in response to another’s fear-driven behaviours. We can also demonstrate a deeper peace that is grounded in trusting the God of all the earth, who we know to be loving and kind and who is the source of all hope.
Tragic and frightening as the Coronavirus is, for us as Christians, it represents a unique opportunity to love the world well, and to show where true peace can always be found.
May the Lord help us, and everyone in the world, at this time.
- Later in the week, Jeroen Bruins (PeaceWise Chair) and I will send an update on how the Coronavirus may impact PeaceWise (eg. trainings, PeaceWiseKids etc), so please look out for that one as well.