A blog post submitted by Love INC Volunteer, Pam Steenstra
On March 22, six days after the shelter-in-place order went into effect in Michigan, my husband and I settled onto the couch to watch our church service on a computer screen. Things were drastically different than the Sunday before. Not just that we were watching a service on the computer but, rather, that there was no option to gather in our church buildings with fellow believers. As we know, this reality troubled many and angered even more. But in the midst of rights violation protests, our pastor gave us an alternative perspective.
With a deadly pandemic sweeping across the world, infecting millions, sending health care into a state of sustained panic, crippling global economies and stealing the very life and breath from far too many human beings, our pastor challenged us to “thrive in a season of uncertainty.” The realities of this pandemic’s impact cannot be ignored or brushed aside with Christian clichés of faith and trust. The sadness, grief, and disappointment felt by those most closely affected by this deadly virus are real. On the flip side, living in devastating fear or uncontrolled rage can most certainly strip us of the joy found in our Savior, Jesus Christ.
We were reminded that this pandemic is temporary. Coronavirus has changed the landscape of normalcy as we know it, but it does not need to separate us from each other forever. The many emotions that swirl around COVID-19 during these different and unsettling times are common. Our lives as we have known it have been altered, changed, and hang in limbo until proper testing is provided and a vaccine for the virus can be discovered. But, we are called upon to not lose hope! Our faith and trust are not in a God who will prevent this maddening virus; but rather, in a God who has promised a future with him forever!
So, what can I do? What can you do? Well, it just so happens that Love INC’s 2020 annual theme provides the same answer our pastor provided on March 22, Move into the Neighborhood and live as Jesus taught us. “Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all our mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) I’m daily reminded that my privileges, entitlements, and wealth have made getting outside of myself and unconditionally loving others far more difficult than I like to believe. We have become an inward focused people, asking “What’s in it for me?” We are quick to defend our own personal freedoms, liberties, and rights rather than looking next door at the needs of our neighbors.
Rather than looking out for myself, could I ask Who am I looking out for? Can you ask yourself that same question? Would our answer be, “Me, myself, and I?” Or, would our answer be, “My neighbor?” The shelter-in-place order could become a time of self-reflection leading to selfless giving. So….
Who am I looking out for? How about the widow down the street who needs her yard mowed? Imagine the impact if we bought a couple boxes of graduation cards online and distributed them to high school seniors in our neighborhood who won’t have a formal graduation this year.
Who am I looking out for? Would it be possible to have our adult children, who shop for us, also shop for our aging neighbor who’s too afraid to go to the store? In addition, could we pay for the groceries? Ponder the healing power of notes of encouragement and care written to everyone up and down the street.
Who am I looking out for? What if we sewed homemade masks and didn’t care if we got paid or not? Think about who and how many would benefit from dropping food off at the local food bank or personal care products to the group home down the street. What might happen if we baked our favorite treats each week and gave them away to a neighbor we didn’t even know?
Each of these examples, and yet so many more, demonstrate what it means to do as Jesus asked of us, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We can only live out the true meaning of Jesus’ command if we put our neighbors on an equal love playing field as ourselves. So, let’s move into the neighborhood now and after the shelter-in-place by daily asking ourselves, Who am I looking out for?