“Let all that you do be done in love.” ~I Corinthians 16:14 (ESV)
I’ve tried to make it a governing principle of my decision making as it concerns this pandemic. “How can I love my neighbor in this instance?”
Should I venture into public or stay home? Should I invite someone in or visit on the porch? Should I wear a mask or not? Should I comment on this post or not comment on this post?
Well, how can I love my neighbor in this instance?
It has mostly come easily for me, thinking this way. Perhaps because I have relatively little fear of this virus for myself or my immediate nuclear family (and because we live far from our extended families, meaning that physical contact with them always requires advance planning and careful decision making.) Perhaps because I also have what I consider to be a healthy fear of infectious diseases from a population standpoint. Perhaps because I remember what it was like to have a baby the medical world wanted me to bubble wrap – NICU staff didn’t want me to take my first two even to church for their first year of life. When I took my preemies into public, I was relying on the conscientiousness of others to protect my vulnerable and not-yet-fully-vaccinated little ones from diseases that regularly put children in their situation back in the NICU and even kill them.
So loving my neighbors by taking COVID precautions has mostly felt pretty straightforward.
Love comes easily. Charity?
Not so much.
You see, charity would have me be patient with those who are (in my opinion) unnecessarily fearful regarding COVID – and patient with those who are (in my opinion) unnecessarily reckless regarding COVID. Charity would have me think kind thoughts and speak kind words about those people with whom I disagree regarding COVID.
Charity would not boast to my husband about how much smarter and more loving I am than all those other people out there who aren’t making the same decisions I am. Charity would not arrogantly assume that her perspective on COVID is the only one worth having. Charity would not be rude (even just internally) to those stupid people who… (do you see how easily my thoughts turn to rudeness?)
Charity would not be irritable toward or resentful of those who misinterpret my attempts at loving as fearfulness for self. Charity would not rejoice when someone “gets what they’ve been asking for” and finds out that COVID isn’t a joke after all.
Charity would bear the misunderstanding. Charity would believe the best of others’ motives. Charity would hope that even the reckless not be hurt or hurt others. Charity would endure the misinformed Facebook posts without having to tirade to her husband about those ALL CAPS EXCLAMATION POINT DOINKS who have no understanding whatsoever of science or immunity or how masks are supposed to work.
I am not charity. Not even close.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” ~I Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)
I have to repent daily for the uncharitable thoughts I think as I read the news or scroll through Facebook. I have to repent daily of the uncharitable words I speak when I complain to my husband about the latest ridiculousness that has me up in arms.
Lest I grow puffed up because of how well I have prioritized loving others during this pandemic, I must remember how poorly I have prioritized charity.
And I must fall upon the mercy of the God who is love, who in His charity reached down and redeemed me – impatient, unkind, envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, selfish, irritable, resentful, short-tempered, unbelieving, cynical me.
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” ~Titus 3:4-7 (ESV)