5 practical responses people of faith can take to make a difference.
Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last few weeks, you are aware that a global pandemic is currently dominating thoughts and headlines. But in December of 2019 when the viral disease now known as COVID-19 first became known, the shock to global health and markets was not initially recognized. Today, however, the reality that the virus will have an immediate impact is becoming clear.
Global markets have retreated from record highs to hit lows not seen since the 1980s. Single day swings in major market indexes are so violent that it’s hard not to hold your breath. Every day it seems the DOW or the S&P 500 sets a new single day record for gains or losses. Investors nervously watch, wondering what the day will bring.
On a local level, communities are concerned about COVID-19 and the immediate health impact, as well as the longer-term economic impact. As of today, multiple school systems in multiple states have closed for 2-6 weeks. Major cruise lines are docking boats for at least 2 months. The NHL and NBA have cancelled the remainder of their seasons; while Major League Baseball has cancelled the rest of pre-season with the regular season in jeopardy. The NCAA cancelled March Madness. Churches, especially those that meet in public places such as schools, are cancelling services. Conventions, conferences, and parades have been cancelled across the country as a precaution.
Concerns over the growing economic impact of COVID-19 are legitimate. What was at one time considered a minor concern, predicted to have virtually no effect on the surging American economy, is now being reevaluated to determine just how big of an impact it will have. The assessment is a daunting task that will be nearly impossible to gauge.
It seems fear and panic rule the day. Some accuse the media and politicians of fear-mongering to hurt the president in an election year. Others accuse people of not being concerned enough and acting recklessly. Still others accuse people of having no faith.
Can there be a faith-filled response to COVID-19? Can people of faith conduct themselves in a way that evidences trust in a Sovereign God? I would suggest there is several practical ways Christians can respond to COVID-19.
1 - Be Thankful: As Americans, we live in a country filled with wealth. More than most, we have the opportunity to take precautions when faced with a viral outbreak. It is unlikely that we will ever be without adequate food, water, shelter, or other necessities. Take a moment to be thankful for the wealth we have been blessed with and you will have a different perspective. Be reminded that many around the world don’t have access to food, clean water, or shelter. A viral pandemic is far more deadly in such places than it could be in the United States. Be thankful.
2 – Be A Helper: As schools close, there is a very real possibility that many kids may not have enough food. Students that rely on free breakfast and lunch at school might be hungry. You most likely have the means to help a neighbor by simply providing some food. Work with your local school, church, or community organization to provide aid to those that may feel immediate impact from a prolonged absence from school. Just because many are quarantined, doesn’t mean you can’t drop off food or other supplies and be a blessing to those in need. Also, don’t forget about the elderly. They have a far greater health risk than most, so consider ways to help and protect them.
3 – Be Reasonable: There’s nothing wrong with taking reasonable precautions concerning hygiene at a time like this. It’s not necessary to have 96 rolls of toilet paper, but being able to clean and disinfect your house is a good idea. Make sure you take reasonable precautions and use proper hygiene and social etiquette to do what you can to prevent further spread of the virus. Acting like there’s no threat is reckless and tells a watching world that you don’t care. Loving your neighbor will present itself through taking reasonable precautions.
4 – Be Wise Stewards: This might sound out of place at the moment, but with markets down, now is a great time to make wise financial decisions. Refinancing a house, investing in the stock market, making large purchases (such as a car), can be a good investment at the moment. Practically, such financial decisions can help local and national economies recover quicker from any short-term economic impact. Work with your financial professional to create a plan for making wise financial decisions at this moment in keeping with the principles of stewardship.
5 – Support Your Local Community: Speaking of local economies; now is a great time to support yours. Amazon and Wal-Mart might feel a crunch, but they won’t be going out of business anytime soon. However, local small businesses face such a possibility. You can help by spending money at locally owned and operated businesses. Eat local, shop local, tip a little extra, and look for local proprietors that would greatly appreciate your support during a slower economic time. Doing so can help reduce the possibility of a recession due to the virus shutdown.
People of faith should not be known for fear and panic. It’s okay to have legitimate concerns and take measured steps to protect ourselves. It’s not appropriate to panic and forget that our faith is not in markets and economies, but in a sovereign God that promises to never leave us or forsake us.
It is at these moments that Christians have historically risen to the challenges before them to extend a helping hand and serve those in need. Many well-known charities were founded by Christians seeing a need and being willing to fill it (The Salvation Army, Compassion International, and Samaritan’s Purse). Now is not the time to change this trend, now is the time for people of faith to strengthen their faith and make it clear that fear does not control us.
What we don’t need right now is panicked reactions and social media assaults. Resist the temptation to argue about the cause, government actions, or anything else lacing an eternal perspective. Work diligently to be the person in your community being proactive in helping others, staying healthy, and exercising wise stewardship. Your community needs you right now and the eternal impact of your actions will far outweigh the temporary fallout of COVID-19. Remember, faith without works is dead.