Compassionate Responsibility

Across the world Christians will have their celebrations of Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, and the annual commemoration of the Passion of Jesus, largely upended this year. Not since the days of the Bubonic Plague have churches experienced such widespread disruption of their weekly gatherings.
Yet, this is the right thing to do; to limit gatherings and close the doors for a season. Such actions are not a lack of faith or a capitulation to fear. These are acts of compassionate responsibility. The aged, the weak, the vulnerable, the “least of these:” They deserve our protection, and if we can prevent ourselves from becoming carriers of Covid-19, then it is the right thing to do, the loving thing to do, no matter how loud some “all we have to do is believe” stooges preach.
Indeed, I know there are unique challenges for local congregations. In addition to being an author and writing this weekly column, I lead a church. I know the frantic feel of the news changing by the minute, of moving worship services to an online platform, of trying to stay connected with those I care about, and of trying to support the sick and the dying.
It’s not easy, but we have never been guaranteed “easy.” On the contrary, Jesus told his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble!” and the Apostle Paul wrote to the early church: “We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles…we’re not sure what to do…we’ve been terrorized…we’ve been thrown down…Our lives are at constant risk…which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us.” Trouble is a sort of activation ingredient. It can bring the life within us to bear in a hurting world in need of healing.
Now, I’m not a health professional. You should listen to yours and do what he or she says. I’m not a scientist. You must listen to what they say; hard science – not conjecture or wishful thinking – is what is needed. I’m not a politician. I can’t recommend you listen to any of them. I’m not an economist. I have no idea what they are advising these days except to treat your investment like your face – don’t touch it!
I’m just a guy like the great Woody Guthrie who once quipped, “Let me be known as the man who told you something you already know.” And what is that? In the face of uncertainty, genuine suffering, chaos, and unprecedented adjustment, the faithful are called to love; to act as good neighbors, to serve the greater good.
So, to those who lead congregations, synagogues, prayer circles, temples, mosques, and meditation centers – and to those who attend such places – now is your time. Find creative ways to connect. Help others choose faith, not fear. Help, don’t hoard. Persevere, don’t panic. Be filled with courage, not cynicism. Even as we find our lives “at constant risk,” the life of love can become “all the more evident in us all.”