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Being responsible is not fear

By Charles Qualls

This Sunday, we wrapped up a sermon series that was called, “Never Waste a Good Crisis: Lessons We Should Learn From the Pandemic.” The series has been based on the fact that our lives have been anything but normal for nearly a whole year now. We could leave this hardship behind us someday and learn nothing from it. Or, we could pay attention and at least get some good from the difficulty.

According to the World Health Organization, there have been 105 million confirmed cases, with the coronavirus now claiming 2.3 million lives and still counting. Closer to home, there have been 26 million cases and over 450,000 deaths in America alone as of this week. We have had many days lately where we were experiencing a 9/11-level death toll every single day. These are hard numbers. What I mean is two-fold: these are firm, real numbers. Not fiction, as some have tried to insist. They are also hard numbers to hear.

If you are quick with your math, you might come to the conclusion that this means there is right at a 2% morbidity rate in our country and you’d say, “Boy, we’ve been fortunate! This isn’t killing very many people.” To tell you the truth, I’m horrified every time I’ve heard anyone say something like this. If my own church members have said it, I’m actually embarrassed.

No, it’s worse than embarrassment. It’s demoralizing to me as a pastor who has preached and taught that Jesus said the most important commandment was to love the Lord our God with all that we are. Then he threw in a second commandment because it was so much like the first one. “Thou shalt love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:35-40 records this for us but three of the four gospels included this teaching moment, so central was it.

It’s the way most were taught to do things. Instead, to my disappointment, some people have taken wearing a mask, keeping good physical distance and restricting our activities as an invasion of their personal rights. All of these aimed at protecting others from us as much as trying to protect us from others. All of these as loving acts that demonstrate that others mean as much to us as Jesus taught us they should.

You see why as a pastor it’s a little demoralizing to see folks acting like they just don’t get it? I want you to hear me affirming something the pandemic has taught us. That being responsible is not fear, and it should never be politicized nor optional. Being responsible is loving of someone besides just our individual selves. That’s what we are called to do. It is the loving option for people who can see beyond themselves, which is exactly what Jesus commanded us to do.

Unless you’ve lost your own loved one to the coronavirus, things have probably only existed in the realm of opinion or philosophy to you. Then, that supposed low 2% morbidity rate doesn’t look quite the same probably, once you have lost the loved one. A dear friend, a coworker or a family member dying of this disease would make it personal. It shouldn’t look the same once there’s a real name or face attached to it.

Speaking of serious, this was a time for us to trust science and to trust doctors. Sure, there were varying opinions, especially at first, on just what strategies seemed best. That shouldn’t surprise in any “novel” and widespread illness. How being responsible, being prudent, taking seriously the information and data available to us became villainized, optional or politicized, I’ll never understand. I mean I do, but I really don’t.

When I hear someone choose the reckless opinions floating around on social media, or being espoused down at the local watering hole or being spouted by their favorite talking head on TV, I begin to wonder eventually why that person can’t love themself. I also wonder why the Christians among them can selectively turn “on” and turn “off” Jesus’ central teachings to suit their convenience.

Maya Angelou once said, “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences and penetrates walls to arrive at its destination, full of hope.” Love God … then self and others! That’s what Jesus told us to do in the Scripture we heard today. That’s actually a pretty bold way to try to live. In fact, try it and see how fearful it actually is.

 

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is the pastor of Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.