The coronavirus outbreak is stirring up anxiety, confusion, and major inconveniences. It is a situation in which we can easily overreact or underreact. How can our faith tradition guide and comfort us through this troubling time?
A good starting point is to remember that the most repeated phrase in the Scriptures is “Do not be afraid!” or “Have no fear!” God probably sends us this message so frequently because fear is such a big part of human nature. Fear can alert us to dangers in our lives to keep us safe, but fear can also lead us astray, toward selfish responses.
The consistent message we hear in the Scriptures is that we need to trust God, who will provide enough for everyone. The problem comes when people begin to take more than they need.
Fear of the coronavirus has caused some to stockpile and hoard unreasonable amounts of toilet paper, hand sanitiser, face masks, and other supplies against the recommendations of leaders. The problem is that this wipes out supplies for those who truly need them the most – health care workers and those most vulnerable to the disease – without really making the buyers safer.
Scripture and the social teachings of the church remind us again and again that we – as individuals and a society – must protect and give priority to those who are most vulnerable and at risk. We see this form the laws in the Old Testament that looked out for the poor and the widows, to Jesus’ embrace of people on the margins of society, to the early church’s adamant support of those who had less. The Bible urges us to put those who are most at risk first.
Community is essential to us as Christians. We are the Body of Christ, and we know that when two or more gather in Jesus’ name, he is present with us. So it may be a bit harder for us to handle the “social distancing” happening in our communities.
Our call to community is not only in the context of our church but also in our neighbourhood community. How do we literally love our neighbour? How can we be witnesses on our streets?
One way is to regularly check in on your neighbours who may be vulnerable or isolated. Offer to deliver groceries or other items for them or to run other errands so they won’t have to risk infection by leaving their home.
Be a positive, calming influence on social media and spread “good news” rather than rumours or hysteria – finding ways to support each other through this crisis.
“Don’t be afraid, just believe”. (Mark 5: 36)