Do you ever have that thing where you are trying to verbalise something but just can’t quite find the right words? I have had a thought running for quite a while now but have not quite had the words to express it correctly, but this week as I was making a video the words just popped out. I usually pray before I make a video, so I am putting it down to grace from on high.
The words which popped out were ‘God has given us the gift of fear to help us survive danger but he has not created us to live our lives in fear’. Since the beginning of this pandemic our culture has been gripped by fear. This, in my opinion, has been led by the media, print and broadcast, who present us with the most sensational stories on a daily basis. But they are only reflecting an attitude which seems to dominate our culture which is that suffering and death are disasters which should be avoided at any cost.
This view which underpins the cultural response to the virus is not a Christian view. As Christians we accept that suffering and death are part of life. We do not want anyone to suffer or to die unnecessarily or unjustly but due to the disobedience of Adam and Eve, they exist and are part of life. Jesus has embraced both and has shown us how to see suffering in a spiritual context, that if offered to God willingly it can be a powerful source of Grace in our lives.
By dying Jesus has transformed death into a gateway to life. Therefore, for us as Christians death is not a disaster or an annihilation (Wisdom 3: 1-9) but a passing from this life to the next. It is not the end but a door through which we pass. We are called to preserve life but also to accept when we can’t. St Paul talks about death as a gain (Phil 1:21), not in a sense that he doesn’t want to be here, but that he will be totally united with Christ in the life to come. As Christians, Jesus calls us to proclaim this message to our world. Death is not the end; God has triumphed and there is a beautiful and exciting life to come. While I don’t much like the idea of dying, I understand that it is an invitation from God to eternal life with him, not a disaster to be feared.
As Christians we have a responsibility for the common good of society. We are called to live our lives as much for the well-being and benefit of others as ourselves. In this crisis that means taking proportionate action that we do not spread the virus. Our culture is risk adverse, but risk is about proportion. A proportionate avoidance of risk is one thing, a desire to eradicate risk altogether is another. Risk cannot be totally avoided and if we seek to do so we are seeking the impossible. In faith we are called to be considerate for the welfare of others but accept that we are not called by God to live in fear of risk. We have been called to live fruitful and loving lives, not to become fearful and mean spirited towards those who don’t seem to be doing as much as us!
Two extreme positions seem to have developed during this crisis, neither of which reflect a Christian attitude. One is the fearful and mean spirited position where we become judgmental of those who do not go to the lengths we go to. I can find myself slipping into that from time to time, even when just out for a walk. The other position is that of the person who refuses to wear a face mask and claims their civil liberties have been eroded by the state. I have sympathy with this view in as much as our civil liberties have been eroded by the state, we are not used to that, but there is good reason for it. We have a responsibility for the good of all society, it is not just about me.
It is, to be frank, a confusing and disorienting time for each of us, but if we can remember that we are children of God, loved by our Father in heaven we will find peace. If we can accept that we are not in control of life or death we will know peace, Jesus says in Jn 14:1 ‘Trust in God still and trust in me’ and we hear in 1 Jn 4:18 ‘perfect love casts out fear’. Trust not fear will be our light in this current darkness, may our words and actions at this time be a light to those around us.