One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” ~Mark 12: 28-31
Sweden has been resisting a lock-down. From the time of the outbreak of Covid-19 across Europe, Sweden’s health authorities have maintained a herd immunity response. This means that the most vulnerable: immune compromised, aged, and those with underlying health issues, are staying in isolation, while the supposed healthier members of the population are “business as usual,” with the exception that some schools are closed. The idea is that as more people get infected, that the society develops a resistance to the virus. But as of yesterday, Sweden had 1,203 deaths due to coronavirus, as compared with 143 for Norway, 309 for Denmark and 72 for Finland who are in lock-down. Sweden has been in the news because of its resistance to a lock-down but more recently because more than 200 of that country’s epidemiologists insist that the government must ignore its own health authority for the sake of the whole population.
Stories like this may cause us to wonder who to believe, who to listen to and who to trust in this time of global crisis. Which path do we follow as we move through these difficult and unprecedented times? Which news reports are trustworthy and true and how do we navigate through the information that is out there? Who do we believe?? With a plethora of news media services globally, all offering their particular approach to cover Covid-19, we may need to consider some criteria for discerning which information is valid and true, which news media are reputable or not. As Christians, we may need to ask ourselves what loving our neighbour looks like in a time of pandemic.
Jesus gave the disciples, and us, two great commandments: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength; and to love your neighbour as yourself. The order in which these priorities are given is of interest: God, neighbour, yourself. In a time of pandemic, however, in our panic and fear, our priorities can get topsy-turvy. Instead, our Christian ethic of caring for others, loving our neighbour, is Jesus’ way. And this needs to be a top priority. This ethic compels us in supporting health-care policies that protect not only ourselves but all of society, our neighbours. We follow the guidelines set out by our health authorities because they have said this is the best way to protect all people. And in this way, we show our love of Jesus by serving others in this very challenging task of physical distancing, staying home, sacrificing ourselves for the sake of one another. We might be feeling a sense of cabin fever the longer this time carries on. But let us look to the wider issues and how we can love our neighbour by following this course. And when our own experts begin to disagree as strongly as those in Sweden, then we can begin to ask other questions.
God of resurrection, we are in such an unusual time in our history. We do not often know who to believe or what advice to follow. We get restless and want restrictions to be lifted. Help us to trust those in leadership and especially to follow Jesus as he calls us to love our neighbour as ourselves. Give us Your wisdom to know what loving our neighbour needs to look like at this time. And above all, continue to be with us and make Your presence known so that we may have the comfort and peace of knowing that You will guide and support us through this time of Covid-19. For we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.