A few nights ago I had to tell my son nine times – go to bed. It might actually have been more than nine times, but at some point it was time to stop counting. Whether it was nine or nineteen, I remember the last time I told him – go to bed. The reason I remember the final time is because I spoke with anger, and his facial expression was evidence of my failure.
I felt awful. I repented to him. That moment it was clear – I had hit the Corona-wall. I am not alone. The day after my failure with my son, I heard from others that they were feeling the same way.
Living for weeks at home, socially isolated from others, and only leaving our home for necessities is not a way for human beings to thrive. It is a recipe for a father to speak harshly to his son. The result is anger, frustration, getting short with others, and convincing ourselves we now understand epidemiology (we don’t).
Now we must begin to take the necessary steps of reopening our economy. We have complicated decisions in front of us, and we must make those decisions after weeks of being alone, with anger and frustration building over our loneliness. As a society, we are feeling just the way I felt after the ninth time I told my son to go to bed.
How should we who live in the way of Jesus respond? What are we called to do at this moment?
Someone in my community group made that word up, and I am running with it. I hope that is what Christ Community will be known for in this pandemic. Covid grace.
What is covid grace? It looks like Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31-33
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
Paul wrote these words to people who were embroiled in a debate about eating meat. In that day, almost all meat was sacrificed to a god in a local temple. That meant some Christians thought – we cannot eat this meat because it was sacrificed to an idol! Other Christians thought – we can eat this meat because an idol is just an idol…there is no ‘god’ there.
This was causing division. People arguing and speaking harshly to one another. Not unlike what I see happening right now in our culture as we argue about how to respond to this pandemic as a society.
Paul’s response is brilliant, and convicting. He says two things.
First, He seeks the advantage of others.
We are all in one of two camps right now. Some of us are high risk, or live with people who are high risk, and we face enormously difficult decisions. I am in this camp. One of my children has a medical condition that puts him at higher risk for severe symptoms if he were to contract COVID19. This is an uncertain and hard time for our family as we make decisions about what is ahead for us. In the midst of our prayers and uncertainty, we have heard Christians say things like – people at risk just need to stay home so the rest of us can get back to life! For us, it’s not just “people at risk” – that “people” has a name. He is our son.
But I understand. As a pastor I am praying for and speaking with business leaders who are facing enormous challenges. We must re-open the economy. I speak to kids who haven’t been able to see their friends. We were meant to live with one another in community, not in stay-at-home orders. It pains me when I hear people say – those who want to reopen the economy don’t care about the vulnerable!
That is not true. They want to feed their kids. They want to make payroll for their employees. They want their kids to play again.
When Paul says he seeks the advantage of others, what he means is that when he goes into a home, he is not ready to make his opinion clear. His opinion was clear. It was perfectly acceptable to eat meat sacrificed to idols. We are free in Christ!
However, if Paul went into the house of someone who grew up worshipping that idol, and could not in good conscious eat the meat without feeling like he was worshipping that god, then Paul would send them a YouTube clip about how the idol wasn’t really a god. No!
He wouldn’t eat the meat. He would listen to their story. He would probably pray for them. He would put them first. Why?
Because of his second point. Paul wanted them to want Jesus.
In the midst of disagreement, it’s easy for our conviction around secondary things to consume our conviction around Jesus. It’s not that the secondary questions are not important – they are! They matter! How we reopen the economy matters. These are important questions.
But they are not as important as Jesus.
I hope what people see in this time from the church is our passion, clarity and conviction around the person of Jesus. His beauty. His kindness. His Covid grace.
Jesus, the Son of God who did not go around asserting His rights, His opinions – even though He had every right! Jesus, who did not seek His advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. That is the story our world needs, and it is the story the church has to tell.
The story of Covid grace.