COVID has hit some of us much harder than others. Many people have suffered the direct effects of the virus themselves or watched their loved ones go through some tough battles. We’ve all experienced the effects of lockdowns and the unintended consequences.
There are ongoing threats and uncertainty around new variants. Politicians, journalists and educators have all offered advice on how to survive the various outbreaks. We can be sure of is the effects of the pandemic will be with us for a long time.
But what should our Christian response to the pandemic be?
Does our faith help us interpret the experience and make sense of it? Reverend Dr. Bruce Kaye has a new book called ‘Living with COVID: Christian Reflections in Troubling Times,’ and he recently joined us on 20Twenty to share some of his insights.
Bruce’s book had its origins in the life of the South Anglican Parish in Sydney to which he belongs. In the weekly community bulletin, he wanted to include something about approaching the Covid situation as a Christian people.
Bruce began writing a series for the bulletin, and his book is a collection of those reflections. His belief was that the audience would grow beyond the parish. Secular wisdom didn’t seem to hold a lot of weight, but there was real value to be found in the wisdom of God.
“I didn’t set out to write a column on the Bible,” says Bruce. “God was present for us as a Christian community, and I wanted to focus on how could we respond as Christians. There were some secular contributions from the medical field, but that wisdom isn’t about it means to be a Christian living in this context.”
We are living with particular circumstances that accentuate ordinary life challenges
What kind of prayer should Christians be engaging in, in this kind of crisis? How do we grow our Christian character so that we have resilience? There are a number of passages in Bruce’s book about the character of love as being patient and merciful.
“These are issues that are perennial for Christians wherever they are,” says Bruce. “I was drawn to that kind of long-term thinking about how we live as Christians and how we decide things. Hope might be described in terms of relief from COVID, but that is an inadequate way of responding to a crisis.”
These are the sorts of truths that have shaped Christianity throughout the past 2000 years. Generally speaking, we are confronted with a decision, and we need to act out of our character. The formation of Christian instincts means that God allows these things to happen so that we will grow stronger.
“There are always mishaps going on and good things going on,” says Bruce. “I don’t think we can attribute precise things to God’s providence. I think we have to deal with the nature of the order in its fallen condition.”
There is so much we can learn from the history of Christianity
There were wonderful things in second-century Christianity, where people wrote what it was like to live as someone whose citizenship was not in heaven. That phrase from Paul’s letter to the Philippians comes up regularly. The most common thing that they wrote about was patience.
“They were waiting for Christ’s redemption and return, and time was going by,” says Bruce. “They had to think about patience a little differently from just waiting for tomorrow. There’s a lot for us to teach about patience, humility and grace in how we live today.”
“We have a lot of thinking and hard work to do because the habits we inherit from our culture don’t always help us. Our Kingdom citizenship is not here, and our freedom to love others should be magnified by that truth.”