On What is Most Loving
Everyone has an opinion about how to confront the COVID-19 pandemic. Conspiracy theories abound regarding the motives of decision-makers but, apart from those who believe the earth is flat, most are convinced that the "powers that be" are doing their best to do what they believe is best (even if they don't agree). Every decision-maker has a definition of best, and everyone impacted by their decisions have an opinion what is lacking in their definitions. What is best medically? What is best educationally? What is best socially? What is best politically? What is best economically? The list goes on.
Christians attempt the stand on "higher" ground and, instead of asking what is best, ask questions like: What is most loving? Essentially, the argument is that we ought make sacrifices for our neighbors, no matter the cost. Most of these arguments center on savings lives, defining "most loving" as protecting the most vulnerable from that which inevitably comes to us all...death. Stopping premature and unnecessary death, our greatest enemy, seems to be the standard being used to make these kinds of arguments. Few would argue this though, it seems, even there we can find some disagreement.
For example, I recently happened upon an article explaining how the UNITED NATIONS recently warned the global community that the "economic downturn could kill hundreds of thousands of children in 2020." Of course, this is a BIG "could" and if their models for this theory are as reliable as some of the others experts have used, we may have little to worry about. But, for argument sake, what if this is true? What if, in an effort to what is "loving", our decision to shut down everything actually results in more death globally in ways that aren't as easy to correlate. It's unlikely "Covid-created-starvation" or "Covid-induced-suicide" would be listed as a cause of death for someone. But, in the case of all things being equally detrimental, how should we determine what is most loving?
There is no perfect solution for such a situation--everything has its risks and nothing is guaranteed. James says it well:
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4.12-17
No matter what we do, if the Lord wills, we will live...or die. That doesn't give us permission to throw caution to the wind and act like fools. Without question, we are to strive to do the "right thing" and NOT just what is right in our own eyes. But, when we can't figure out what is "right", how shall we live? Again, James gives us something to think about:
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1.2-5
James encourages us to pray for wisdom. Most often, we want wisdom to know what TO DO. Here, James seems to have a differnent focus. Trials come and he doesn't encourage us to pray that we might "find a way out of the trial", rather, that we might understand that God is testing us--like refining us. I am convinced that is the right thing to do right now will only be understood in retrospect. Perhaps, instead of focusing exclusively on what we should be doing, I wonder if we might reflect on what we are becoming.
I am not trying to avoid the difficult task of answering what is "most right" in this situation. This is an important (if not impossible) question to answer, just not the most important one. If the disciples are any example, the cross shows us that what we might think is "right" is going to feel and look really wrong sometimes. It is not our job to figure out the perfect way, but to learn to trust in the one who wrote the perfect plan.
I don't know the "most right" thing to do right now. But James says that, when this happens, the one things we should do is PRAY. Remember, we are not praying to FIX IT. As I read this morning in a devotional: "Sometimes the purpose of prayer is to get us out of circumstances, but more often than not, the purpose of prayer is to get us through them."