Just 4 weeks ago I went to a church service in Scotland where covid-19 social distancing was practiced, and those feeling vulnerable were encouraged to stay home. A new practice of bumping elbows replaced hand-shakes and high fives. Within a couple of days, future services were cancelled and I was facing 14 days self-isolation on return to New Zealand, getting grumpy at my plans being messed up.
James 4:13-16 became real to me, and I wonder why we didn’t take it seriously before covid-19; it says “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? A mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Our Father in heaven has been training me over the past year to not need to know what his plans are for tomorrow, but to enjoy today. I have no worries about tomorrow in this season. This training has had tough moments, but the freedom, peace and joy is worth it.
Who imagined the day we are in four weeks ago? Not me. But God knew it and has prepared each of his children for it in their own way. So child of God, you are ready for this day.
My 14 days self-isolation is finished today, 7th April; but lock-down in NZ continues so not much changes. And I’ve found myself getting cynical and critical at the government’s lock-down. I like to reflect on what’s going on in me with the Holy Spirit, so I asked him:
“Why in this covid-19 environment am I so disturbed by the increasing lack of freedom?”
I don’t want to contribute to another person being infected? In my time in Scotland and London before returning to New Zealand, I was diligent about social distance and washing my hands. No one was watching me to make sure, I was free to do this or not do this. Now I’m aware that people are watching and may report if they think I’m not being a good lock down person by their judgement. The freedom is gone.
Today I realised why I’m disturbed. I’m being asked to obey rules from a motivation of fear and an exhortation to be ‘kind’. I’ve heard, “stay home and save lives, implying if I drive too far from my home someone will die”. My logic says this is unlikely if I don’t have contact with anyone. My logic says, 2 km is fairly local and a bike ride has natural social distance. Fear and kindness aren’t motivation for me.
I hear some saying, “just do it, stay home and save lives. Do what you’re told and this will be over sooner”. I hear you, and I’m trying. I keep physical distance, I’ve touched almost nothing outside of my bubble over the past two weeks, and used my car once.
Here’s my point.
We are being asked to ‘lay down our lives for our neighbour’ who we will probably never know. This is more than kindness. We are laying down freedoms, and for many people ‘incomes’, and for some businesses, in the hope that one less person will be infected with covid-19, and that among those infected, one less person will die because of covid-19. What else does ‘stay home and save lives’ mean?
Now I know what to do with my cynicism and discomfort from my increasing lack of freedom. I resist the fear motivation, and admit that for me being kind is not enough for the personal cost. That I need to train myself to be in this world of lock-down while not of it.
What I mean is, I’m of God’s world of love. God said to me, Paul, you choose love over fear.
I am his beloved and growing in loving others as he loved me. Therefore my motivation to submit to lock-down is this love, I choose to love my neighbour whom I may never meet and lay down my life for them.
And for us who claim to be Christians, this is not just for lock-down, it’s how we live every day. And remember when we choose love that begins with God, and is revealed in Christ, that love flows into our hearts by the Holy Spirit and drives out all fear.
Let’s be grown up followers of Jesus and do what is needed because we love, not because we are told to.