LOVING OUR NEIGHBORS – PANDEMIC STYLE
Our world looks a lot different today than it did ten weeks ago, six weeks ago, or even two weeks ago. In fact, with the pandemic currently encircling the globe, our lives look different from day to day and hour to hour. But do you know the one thing that never changes? Our G-d, Elohim, Adonai Tzevaot. Look at a few of these verses.
Malachi 3:6: “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”
Isaiah 40:8: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our G-d will stand forever.”
II Timothy 2:13: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.”
What this means for us as believers is that our G-d does not change, He can be depended on, and He is consistent in all things when the world falls to pieces around us – whether that’s a personal world, a local world, a national world, or a global world.
Having the comfort and faith that Adonai will cover us no matter what happens is liberating. It frees us from fear, from worry, from despair. It grounds us to a reality that we know exists around us regardless of what our eyes and ears tell us. We know that no matter what happens, He is our G-d and Redeemer.
But what that faith does not allow us to do is to be selfish in our response to the calamity around us. If we were looking at a natural disaster from a tornado, earthquake, or flood, as children of the King, we’d be out in the thick of things helping our neighbors. And if we were physically unable to contribute, we’d donate our resources and money. That’s the way the church operates, and we give in abundance.
However, this pandemic that we’re facing is not a natural disaster that we can jump into and provide support. It’s a new contagion that has no immunity, and our very presence amongst our neighbors is the problem. The fact that we draw breath and exhale is the disaster itself.
The virus’s rate of spread became an international phenomenon in a matter of weeks. People were slow to respond and continued about their daily activities, and we see the calamity that has befallen countries such as Italy. Their healthcare systems are falling apart because they cannot cope with the percentage of people who are going critical with the disease. Yes, about 85 percent of the world’s population that contracts the virus will recover. But it’s the sheer numbers in the 15 percent of those that don’t recover that are overwhelming health care systems that were meant for normal care and a finite number of emergency visits, not the number of cases of corona virus that need emergency ICU treatment now. People overseas are being triaged to determine who lives and who dies. If you’re elderly, you are thought to have lived your life and that one ventilator is going to someone much younger than you.
Here in the United States, we’re seeing people that insist on doing as they well please. Even Christians are falling into this trap, thinking if they don’t meet at church every week and continue with their daily business, that they are giving in to fear and dishonoring G-d.
This way of thinking endangers the rest of us horribly. We live in a time of great knowledge and awareness. We know how the virus spreads and we know that respiration is the calamity point. We were able to get ahead of the curve on this new virus in the United States in record time. Yet, with all this knowledge, many feel that the whole thing is just a hyped-up boogeyman and to succumb to taking isolating or preventative measures shows a lack of trust in G-d.
Friends, this is not honoring to G-d. Proverbs 10:14 tells us, “Wise men store up knowledge, but with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand.”
Isaiah 59:7 says, “Their feet run to evil, and they hasten to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, devastation and destruction are in their highways.”
I have a friend with three immune-compromised children. I can assure you that she does everything she can to protect them from anything that is harmful to them, especially during this time of rapid spread of COVID-19. But her husband has to work to pay the many, many bills that they have. She has to take the children to numerous doctor visits, she has to go grocery shopping – in short, she can housebound her children to the fullest extent, but all it takes is one irresponsible person who has been exposed to the disease, determined to do what they want or to prove that they are not faithless before HaShem, to come into contact with her and put her whole family in danger.
My daughter and her family are in self-quarantine because of one such irresponsible person who exposed them to the virus. And her husband is in the high-risk category with his asthma. My other daughter has other family members who are highly immune compromised, and she or her husband must physically interact with them at least weekly. If she or her husband were exposed to the contagion, she could bring it home to them without even knowing it.
HaShem tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Leviticus 18:19). Endangering our neighbor or their families is not loving our neighbor. If I’m walking in the woods and a snake bites me, I can pray in total confidence for HaShem to heal me. But if I deliberately put my hand in a container full of poisonous snakes, then I’m sinning and testing HaShem, which is explicitly forbidden. When satan tempted Yeshua to jump from the highest point of the Temple because HaShem had said He would command his angels to guard him, what was Yeshua's response? “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your G-d to the test.” (Matthew 4:7) This comes directly from Deuteronomy 6:16. We are explicitly forbidden to do this.
When I was growing up, I was taught that you bring with you into the bedroom of intimacy anyone with whom you’ve been sexually active. Let’s take this one step further, using the analogy of the container of snakes above: with this virus, by not taking precautions, we’re forcing everyone we come in contact with to stick their hands in that same container full of poisonous snakes that we’ve put our hand into. We are forcing them to come into contact with anyone we have been in contact with, and we simply don't have that right.
And that is as far from loving your neighbor as it gets.
So how do we show the love of Yeshua to our neighbors? How do we come through a contagion showing the love of HaShem?
Just by limiting your social contact wherever possible is loving your neighbor. Stay home if you can. If you can’t stay home, then use commonsense methods of protection – hand sanitizer, hand wipes, washing your hands with soap and water, keeping at least 6 feet away from people, wearing a face mask if called for, not shaking hands, and not touching your face.
Don’t gather in groups of more than 10. There have been hundreds of times since the time of Yeshua that the church has gone underground. HaShem only commands us to honor the Sabbath. Going to a building is not a requirement. Think of innovative ways to celebrate Shabbat with others via the internet or your phones. We have technological tools available to us that allows us to edify one another without putting each other at risk. Remember, the church is never closed! Only a building is closed. YOU are the church!
Check on any elderly people that need to remain isolated but may need your help in providing groceries or medicines. You can shop for them – safely! – and leave their items outside the door where they live.
Pray for the swift elimination or containment of this contagion and pray for the unemployed. The ripple effect of this illness has ramifications across the global economies. Many people are going to be hurting from the economic downfall that may occur. Once the pandemic is contained, maybe this area of economic need is where G-d will call you to minister with help or finances.
Pray for the sick and their families. Pray for the vulnerable. We need to pray a hedge of protection around them and pray for G-d’s provision in their needs.
Pray for students and their families. Ask the Father to bestow patience and discipline on our youth.
Pray for the healthcare workers who are on the front lines of this outbreak. Ask Adonai to protect them from illness and to give them strength. Pray for those who must be out, interacting with the public, such as grocery store workers, police and firefighters, and any number of other essential personnel. They need prayers of protection around them as well.
Loving our neighbor is on the same level as loving HaShem. Yeshua told us so. He told us often that if we cannot love our neighbor, then we cannot love the G-d who created our neighbor. May we all remain humble and committed to the works of Adonai in ways that show selfless love.