This past week I went to the grocery store for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemonium descended on our culture. It was such a weird experience that I have been musing on it ever since. Let me share with you four reflections from my unique shopping experience.
1) What if?
The first thing that I was confronted with a sign on the door reminding us to maintain the appropriate 2-meter social distancing standard. Then, as I walked into the store, I was met with arrows indicating which direction I was to walk, and signs on the floor at the registers to keep people at a safe distance. Plexiglass barriers were up at the registers, and disinfectant wipes were in ample use. The whole time I was in the store, everyone was very careful to follow the recommendations. Most people view it as their civic duty to do everything they can to ‘flatten the curve’. Everyone in Foodland had clearly bought into the vision.
As I drove home, I wondered what would the church look like if the followers of Christ took obedience to the commands of Christ as seriously as Canadians are taking their mission to flatten the curve? I read a book recently called The Compelling Community that focused on how the gospel forms a community that is distinct from the culture. I just wonder what would happen if Christians were as willing to alter their daily habits and upend the flow of their lives to this extreme in order to see God’s vision for His people realized in their lives and local churches?
Obviously, we all know about the crazy run on toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes that swept through our stores. As I walked through the store, there were still empty shelves as our supply chain still hasn’t caught up with the sudden demand, and there was still a ration on some items like dairy products. Yet this is a subtle reminder of how humanity’s sinfulness has made them entirely inward-focused. Stores are out of items because people are more concerned about securing their own needs than they are about sharing the resources they have with others. Humanity by nature is selfish, and we will consume others in our attempt secure our own safety and comfort. This brokenness produces my third observation…
What struck me most as I walked around the store was the hopeless despair the marked everyone’s body language. No one talked. No one made eye contact. No one smiled. People stayed more than 2 meters apart and shot dirty looks at anyone whom they thought was a little too close. Worst of all, people plodded along like defeated people, suspicion that the people around them might pass the plague on to them. The whole store had an cloud of hopelessness and despair hanging over it. It was shocking, and I left hurting for the lostness of the people in my town while also rejoicing that I cannot even begin to understand their desperation, not because I am better, but because of who I am in Christ, I have joy, peace, purpose, and hope that gives me an entirely different outlook on the context in which we live.
4) The need to broaden our vision
This last observation does not come from my trip to the grocery store, but from watching this matter unfold. Please read everything that follows through the grid of this statement: I think we need to adjust the basic flow of our lives to try and lessen the affects of COVID-19. However, I am concerned that the global obsession with addressing the virus is not taking into consideration other basic needs of humanity.
In the last week, I had two different statistics shared with me that I found profoundly sad. The first is that domestic violence in Ontario is up 250% since the government began to impose restrictions on citizens. The second is that alcohol sales are up 40% (including Corona beer). If you have a loved one die, you are not allowed to have a memorial service. My wife told me just this morning of a 13-year-old kid who died alone in the hospital because his family was not allowed to be with him. There is something inherently wrong with that.
In the last month, sweeping decisions have been made, and it is not my intention to pass judgement on those decisions; but our attempts to ‘flatten the curve’ need to take more into account than the global statistics of COVID-19. This is particularly true for the church, which in the last month has been completely upended. We need to be careful that our Bibles are what dictate our thinking and therefore our actions. Again, I am not suggesting we ignore the present global concerns. I am simply saying that we need to broaden our thinking to ensure that the measures we are taking to address the COVID crisis do not create deeper problems than the one we are trying to eliminate. In otherwords, our nations leaders need a unique amount of wisdom to navigate this hard circumstance. Please pray for them!
All creation is groaning, awaiting the return of King Jesus, who will not only put an end to sin and cast Satan into hell for eternity, but who will put an end to the curse brought on creation by sin. For the Christian, we have a completely different perspective on this global pandemic. Because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we have joy, peace, and hope in a society feeling the effects of sin amplified by the strain of the circumstances. So, when your out in public, put a smile on your face and show people your joy in Christ. Offer hope in a hopeless situation! And keep your bibles open to ensure that your actions are aligning with God’s word. We can enjoy God even in this. As we do that, we will glorify Him in all that we do.