How May I Help My Neighbours?
At some point in our lives, we are likely to have been asked the question, “How may I be of service?” Usually, this question is addressed to us by someone working some sort of service job. Once we inform them of our specific need, they go to work in providing that need. Similar to those who work in the service industry, it is our duty to serve our neighbours. But oftentimes we talk about the fact that we must love and serve our neighbours, but we sometimes neglect to talk about how and why we are to do so.
This is important to consider as we enter the sixteenth week of this Coronavirus pandemic. It is relatively easy to become disillusioned with the whole thing and forget why we are going through all this. Conspiracy theories and disinformation abound online and can plant seeds of doubt.
An important point to emphasise right away is that the government is not persecuting us. While this may seem self-evident, for many it is not. Many Christians seem to have a martyr-complex and would love nothing more than to be persecuted by the government. But that is simply not the case in this situation. No, our governments, both provincial and federal, were not targeting Christians.
What are they doing then? They are trying to preserve bodily life. This is included in the government’s basic job description. The obligation of the Fifth Commandment applies both to the government and also us individually. “We are to fear and love God, so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbours, but instead help and support them in all of life’s needs” (SC I.10, Kolb and Wengert, 352). The Government has a duty to preserve our lives. We have the duty to what we can, according to our vocations, to protect and support of neighbours.
Another reason to obey public health recommendations stems from the Fourth Commandment, where we are told that, “we are to fear and love God, so that we neither despise nor anger our parents and others in authority, but instead honour, serve, obey, love, and respect them” (SC I.8, Kolb and Wengert, 352). These public health recommendations are more than simply suggestions which we are free to take or leave. Instead, the government is expecting us to do the right thing, to make sure we “neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbours.” They do not want to have to enforce this. As Christians, we should be the first in line to be part of the solution, not the problem. This means that when health officials give us recommendations to help slow the spread of Covid-19, we can and should think of our compliance as our loving service to our neighbours.
Many, especially those who are more vulnerable or at risk, have struggled with fear during this time. But, should we view these public health measures with fear? Far from it! These are not the measures of fear. No, they are tangible ways we can express our love for our fellow Canadians. Given our situation, there are tangible and concrete ways you can love and serve your neighbours. Wearing masks whenever appropriate, keeping two metres apart from those not in our “social bubble”, and washing our hands, are just a few examples.
Now, this requires something of us (James 2:15-16). Wearing masks can be hot and uncomfortable. We’re tired of making sure we stay physically distant from other people. But, the sacrifice of our comfort is for the health and well being of our neighbours. Is not your neighbour’s life worth more than a bit of discomfort? It may be a sacrifice of time, to call a lonely friend or acquaintance and see how they are doing. Whatever the sacrifices we have to make during this time, we make them because we love of neighbours and want what’s best for them. This also implies that we should make allowance for those who are unable to wear masks. We certainly would not want to endanger our neighbour by forcing them to wear a mask!
The fundamental question we need to be asking ourselves right now is, “How may I help my neighbours?” Certainly, following the public health guidelines is one way. But we should not look at the regulations and ask ourselves, “What is the least I have to do?” Instead, we should be permeated with a concern to not endanger the lives of others.
It is important that we do not endanger our neighbours at Church also. This is especially true now that we have resumed in-person services. Churches can be places with a high risk of infection, if the right precautions are not taken. The Fourth Commandment suggests that we should trust the expertise of those placed in charge of public health. And so, Church Council has worked hard to make sure we are not only following the recommended provincial and local health guidelines, but that we are doing what we can to show you that we love and care for your physical well being. Certainly, we may find these measures distracting or intrusive at first. But, the physical well being of our neighbours is worth it.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) contains an important lesson on this point. Why did the priest and the Levite pass the man who was robbed and left for dead? Because they had to attend to religious functions and duties, which were commanded by God through Moses. However, Jesus places more value on the bodily well being of the robbed man over even religious regulations given by Moses! Our neighbours are no good to us dead, and we should not be so Pharisaical as to allow the precision of ritual to endanger our neighbour.
While wearing masks, washing hands, and being physically distant are minor discomforts and inconveniences, they are tangible ways we obey the Fourth and Fifth Commandments. They allow us to show and demonstrate our love for our neighbours right now. We are motivated to do so, because of the Cross. What Jesus Christ our Lord went through was far worse than a minor inconvenience or discomfort. Christ is our own Good Samaritan. By his shed blood and gruesome death on our behalf he has cleansed us of our sins. He has put us up in the inn of the Holy Christian Church. He feeds us with his Word and with his Body and Blood, the medicine of immortality. He does so, not just while we were his neighbours, but his enemies. He tells us not to fear, but to trust in Him because he has conquered the world (John 14:1; 16:33). With such extravagant love shown to us, how can we not do what we can to not endanger our fellow Canadians at this time?