Many of us are now living under quarantine — ordered to stay at home, leaving only for food or medical help. This is a vital step in order to stymie the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Introverts are in heaven and extroverts are in the other place. But, even for introverts, two weeks of isolation is enough to test the nerves. People go stir-crazy. Fear mounts. Hoarders hoard. Those prone to depression sink further. Frustrations rise. Desperation sets in. We are in crisis mode. Is there an antidote to the hysteria? I think there is, but it requires us to act counter-intuitively.
Jesus and the National Crisis
Jesus lived in a time of crisis. The Roman Empire was at its height of power, and like most Empires with hegemony, she was a horrid taskmaster. The Hebrew people (among others) were dying under the iron heel of Rome. And their own religious leaders offered little relief. Between the Roman taxes and the Temple taxes (issued according to the Mosaic Law and extracted by the religious elite), the people had to subsist on what little was leftover.
Jesus saw the situation clearly and offered some advice. It wasn’t what anyone was expecting. It was counter-intuitive. Here are Jesus’ direct orders to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38-42).
Jesus’ antidote to fear, anxiety, depression, and national crises was generosity. And not just everyday, run-of-the-mill generosity. His prescription was crazy, over-the-top, out-of-this-world, turn-the-other-cheek generosity. That’s insane.
Confession time — I’ve always had a big problem with “turn the other cheek.” Perhaps Jesus was simply using hyperbole to make a salient point, and the point was — generosity is your way out. In the most horrible situation you can imagine — be generous. When there seems to be no way out — be generous.
Generosity is the secret to your escape.
The Antidote Action Items
If that’s true, what does that mean for us? I’ll make four suggestions. Reflect on this idea and you can add others.
1. Check on your neighbor.
A phone call will work for starters. If you don’t have their number then tape a note to their door offering help and giving them your number (download example HERE), knock on the door, and then leave.
This is a time for us to go out of our way and outside our comfort zones to help our neighbors.
2. Don’t hoard. Give away.
Hoarding in a time like this is antithetical to the Jesus spirit. In a time of national crisis, Jesus said, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matt. 5:42).
When the virus hit the news and grocery shelves began to empty, we had 25 rolls of toilet paper in our house. We are not hoarders. This is our normal inventory. We have an irrational fear of running out of toilet paper (when we get down to 5 rolls my wife and children start to hyper-ventilate).
I went out and found a few more packages of toilet paper. I then decided that we were on the verge of hoarding. So I gave them away. It’s going to be fine.
Be a giver, not a taker.
3. Volunteer for the front lines.
Jesus said, if they ask you to go one mile, you go two.
If you are healthy and strong — volunteer to make a difference. There are benevolence organizations that need your help right now. Frankly, most of these are normally sustained by elderly volunteers who now find themselves in a high-risk category, unable to help.
You should consider stepping into the gap.
Take the appropriate precautions. If you are in the high-risk category — STAY AT HOME.
If you live where I live — The Network Ministry is a great place to start. They need your help.
4. When the quarantine is over, be a part of the solution to recovery.
When the Covid-19 virus passes, there will be a lot of work to do. Recovery will be slow and difficult. Some believe that what we are now experiencing is not the crisis at all — it’s the calm before the storm.
No matter. Whether we are in the storm or the calm before the storm — be a part of the solution.
The natural temptation is to point fingers and play the blame game. As a leader, I am no stranger to that game. I have both played it and have had it played on me. Resist the temptation to blame. Instead, be the one who bends down and helps to pick up the pieces.
Jesus said (of himself), “… the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).
Our Better Angels
On March 4, 1861, as the nation was tearing apart, newly elected president Abraham Lincoln delivered his first Inaugural speech. He appealed to the hope that human beings, though flawed, have a great capacity to love.
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
In these days of crisis, may we tap into “the better angels of our nature.”