The hullabaloo over the pandemic of COVID-19 is, as most things in the world of public interactions, one of extremes.
On one side of things the broad distrust of the media industry and suspicion of anything that could be seen as a political ploy results in apathy toward what is surely no more of a concern than the common flu. I can see that to some degree.
On the other side, there is the panic at the thought of this virus decimating our country and bringing our health care system and entire economy to ruin. The outrage toward those who don’t see this as a serious matter is, in some sense, understandable.
But, despite the many voices in the world telling us that theirs is the only reasonable perspective, there is a great deal of ground in between the extremes.
I’m not a scientist and I don’t pretend to know the medical ins and outs of this situation. What I do know is that this is not beyond the scope and application of biblical wisdom.
Twice in the book of Proverbs we read these words (prompted by the Spirit of God but delivered through one of the most wealthy men that ever lived):
The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.Proverbs 22.3; 27.12
SO… let’s get straight to it. It is FOOLISH to go on as if it’s nothing. But it is also FOOLISH to move into a bubble and forsake the rest of the world. It is PRUDENT to pay attention and take reasonable precautions.
The problem, as a follower of Jesus, for either of these extremes is one of self-centeredness.
On the one hand, those who are hoarding toilet paper (which NO ONE has been able to explain to me) and sealing themselves inside their own homes and pulling their kids out of school or anything else that might bring them in potential conflict with the unwashed masses are reacting entirely out of fear. Fear almost never leads to wise decisions.
On the other hand, those who insist that this is just all a campaign of media hype and there is no cause for concern and thus will not so much as take advice on how long and thoroughly to wash their hands are reacting entirely out of arrogance. This also almost never leads to wise decisions.
But the bigger issue here is that the vast majority of us are NOT going to be the ones to be killed by this virus. It’s those precious folks whose bodies are already worn down by age or disease or other compromising condition that will fall to this illness.
It’s my hope-filled and rambunctious nephews that have had more heart surgery in the first few years of life than most of us could endure in a lifetime…
It’s the very dear folks that I know and love who, now into their nineties, have a depth of experience-informed praying for us that I can hardly bear to part with…
The reasonable precautions of prudence are not for me and probably not for you. They are to protect those who can’t fight this thing. Our panic will not help them. Our apathy won’t either. Our prudence may keep them from having to fight this particular battle.
I have to ask: If we can’t be counted on to be diligent to wash our hands for the sake of “the least of these,” what hope do we have of ever learning to wash their feet?
So please, my brothers and sisters, don’t panic.
Please, my brothers and sisters, don’t act like it’s not there.
Let’s be more concerned about protecting the weak among us than we are about our convenience or preference or comfort.
Surely when we’ve done such for the least of these, we have done so unto Jesus himself.