Grace in A Pandemic

After Jesus rose from the dead, his treatment of the apostles was fascinating. When Jesus was arrested before the crucifixion, the apostles fled. Peter denied him three times that night. As far as we know, John was the only apostle at the crucifixion. Jesus had every right to be really angry with them.

Yet, his interactions with them after he rose were loving and kind. He was even patient with Thomas who had demanded to see his wounds before he would believe he had risen.

Jesus showed his apostles grace. He realized they were still learning and growing. He knew they were still making mistakes and sinning. The apostles would never be perfect, but they would soon become mighty men of faith…willing to suffer and die for the sake of the Gospel. Jesus was willing to give them the room to finish making that transition with his guidance and correction, but also his love, kindness and patience.

COVID is a new virus, even though it is similar to familiar ones. There is a learning curve. Few alive today were alive the last time there was a similar deadly pandemic in 1918. Even those who were alive then realize the world has changed a lot in a hundred years.

People react to stress in different ways. Some panic, while others do research. Some find a favorite expert and insist their expert is more expert than others, while others trust no one but themselves. Some retreat, while others become defiant. The list goes on and on.

To truly be like Jesus, we need to find ways to extend grace to ourselves and those around us. That grace may take many forms. In part, it begins with recognizing some basic truths about our current situation.

  • Realizing every expert may be at least partially wrong. Studies of experts in a variety of fields over the years have shown the average expert is wrong far more than they are right – even pro baseball players don’t get a hit more than ⅓ of their times at bat. For every expert you can find that supports one idea, there are others equally expert who believe the opposite. It’s fine to have a favorite, but give grace to those who prefer a different expert. Time will tell who is right.
  • Realizing you may not have all of the information decision makers have access to when making decisions. Growing up near Washington, D.C., I learned there is a lot of information – even today – that the average person does not have the same access to as decision makers. This is why we must pray for our government officials…that their motives are pure and they make wise decisions.
  • Realizing COVID is impacting different families in different ways. Some families are more concerned about keeping everyone perfectly healthy while others are more concerned about having employment so their family has housing, food and medical insurance. Both are laudable goals. We need to show grace and allow each family to decide which goal is their top priority as long as they are not putting others at unnecessary risk.
  • Realizing everyone has a different definition and tolerance for risk. What one person defines as risky behavior another person calls Tuesday. While we may not agree with the choices people make because of their level of risk tolerance, we need to give them some grace. Risk takers should be careful to reduce the possibility of endangering others with their risk taking though, much as they would avoid skydiving onto someone’s roof.
  • Realizing there is not a playbook for the situation we are currently in and assuming everyone is doing the very best they can in any situation. Some people may have questionable motives in the choices they are making, but they will come to light at some point. For now, assume people are doing the best they can under the circumstances. Most people don’t intentionally do things to hurt others. Their world view may consider different things helpful than your world view, but they are still trying to make choices that will be helpful to others.
  • Realizing that stress can cause highly emotional reactions to simple things and acting out behaviors. Yes, we should all work on our self control, but most of us are on emotional overload trying to handle all of the changes as well as discerning what is the best way to keep our families as safe as possible. It’s important to give grace when people cry or act out and not lash out in response…even if you don’t have the emotional bandwidth to comfort them at the moment.
  • Realizing some people are dealing with COVID bringing to them additional consequences for previous poor choices. Some families are under additional stress because of poor financial, parenting or relational choices in the past. The consequences of these choices may have been somewhat hidden until they are forced to spend time together 24/7 or COVID financial hardships are placed on top of an already shaky financial situation. They may need our help figuring out how to make necessary changes to get things back on track.
  • Realizing some react better to change than others. Some people enjoy change and because they experience it regularly, they are often able to adapt to the changes COVID has brought more quickly, more effectively and with somewhat less stress than others. Other people have a low tolerance for change. Lots of rapid fire changes like we have experienced in the last few weeks have totally turned their world upside down. They can and will adapt, but it may take them a lot longer and it will be a lot more painful.
  • Realizing everyone is mourning something and everyone mourns in different ways. Yes, many of us have gained things we didn’t know we were missing, but almost everyone has at least temporarily lost something important to them. We are all mourning those losses. Some people mourn by crying, others by trying to distract themselves. We need to give grace to allow people to mourn things we may find silly and to allow them to mourn in their own ways.
  • Realizing everyone has different strategies for coping with stress, loss and other emotions and experiences. Some coping strategies are healthy and helpful, while others aren’t. We need to find ways to be loving and kind while also helping those with truly destructive coping strategies find better alternatives. We have to know when to show grace to others for coping strategies that help the person – even if we believe they are silly. We also need to be ready to help provide intervention for toxic coping strategies like abuse, alcohol and drug use/abuse, etc.
  • Realizing everyone must process the impact this has on their relationship with God. Granted, not everyone is aware they are doing this. Situations like COVID force us to face our own mortality. Some Christians may find it strengthens their faith. Other Christians may find the lack of physical worship services and Bible classes leaves them more vulnerable to sinning or doubts. People who aren’t Christians, may suddenly have lots of questions, fear and even anger. They need our grace to help move towards God rather than away from Him.
  • Realizing we can’t solve every problem in the world with our ministries – personal or corporate. My ministry touches a lot of locations and I’m overwhelmed just trying to help them. I don’t need to spread myself too thin or I won’t help anyone very much. Your ministry might only be to a handful of Bible students and their families, but that too can keep you very busy every day in addition to your other responsibilities. Consider how much time and energy you have to help new people during COVID. Don’t overwhelm yourself to the point of physical and spiritual collapse. Christians also need to make sure and find time for Sabbath type rest, even if it is only a few hours a week. Jesus modeled it and we need to realize we need that time of resting with God just like Jesus. Give yourself the grace to ask other Christians to help you in those areas of ministry you don’t have the time to do and to regularly give yourself adequate Sabbath type rest with God.

Modeling grace will make life a bit more pleasant for those around you. It will point others to God. Hopefully, it will encourage others to give grace – even if they aren’t Christians. Most importantly, you will be following the example Jesus set over two thousand years ago.

Categories Encouragement
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