What we practice when life is calm and predictable will present itself when life becomes more turbulent and less predictable. It is that spiritual muscle memory that we should be developing in our lives for when trouble rolls in and decides to stay for a while. The same applies to us physically as well. Do what we can to keep ourselves healthy, so that when illness visits, we have a better chance of recovering more rapidly.
It seems that trouble has rolled in. We can call it an overreaction. We can say we aren’t taking it seriously enough. We may believe it is “much ado about nothing.” We can laugh and criticize our leaders and decision makers. We can complain. We can make fun of all those poor souls who are afraid of running out of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. But enough of that.
How about this. Think for a little bit about some of the instruction that is given around the concept of love presented to us in I Corinthians 13. It is a well-known passage from the Bible that carries a great deal of meaning even when it is taken out of its context. It is one of those passages in the Bible that is often quoted by people who do not know that it is in the Bible. It is read at weddings and funerals of all types of people. That is because it is beautiful, and it is true.
Perhaps we could start applying this to our current situation. I do not often quote lengthy Bible passages here, but this one is worth it. I expect that many readers already know what it says.
“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, ‘Jump,’ and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always ‘me first,’ Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.” (I Corinthians 13:1-7, The Message)
One of the questions that I ask when reading something that requires me to think or engage the world is, “What does this look like?” More specifically, “What does this look like today?” Every day is different — there are different worries, there are different tasks to be done, and different places to go. This allows me to be the same person wherever I go and be guided by solid anchors so that I can be resolute in belief and gracious and flexible in action.
What does, “Love cares more for others than for self” look like in the middle of a pandemic? It comes to mind that I need to keep myself (whom I consider to be healthy and low-risk) from becoming sick so that I do not take up a respirator or hospital bed that may be needed more by someone else, but isn’t available because I am there. While I may believe all of this is overreaction and I need not worry for my health, I should consider others. Many times love simply means to take a moment to consider how my actions may affect another person.
What does, “Do not strut” look like? This might mean refraining from speaking in areas where we have no knowledge. It might mean stopping the spread of hurtful or inaccurate comments or information. It might mean being sensitive to those who are truly concerned for their health but look to you and I as though they have nothing to worry about. We do not know that.
Take each of the phrases describing love and give them some thought as to what they might look like if lived out. We need more pictures of love in this world, especially today. Be one.
Sean Niestrath lives and ministers in Madisonville. You may contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.