During this time of global pandemic, I am NOT even the slightest bit surprised at the increase in conflict that is happening between family members, friends, neighbors, and those affiliated with the same Church. After all, when people are scared, they oftentimes act out and lash out. Most people are trying to make sense of what is happening, and everyone (except for maybe the toilet paper companies, Costco and Wal-Mart) want this entire ordeal to end quickly. Everyone is on high alert! Grocery store shelves have emptied, children across the nation are home from school, and most of us likely have at least one person we know who has tested positive. As much as we want this to be over now, the unfortunate reality is that most scientific models are showing that we have weeks or — more likely — months ahead.
In addition to Coronavirus, there is — quite possibly — a far worse disease that is lurking out there, with the ability to inflict even greater damage upon us…DIVISION! Our Lord Jesus Christ indicated that “every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand” (Matthew 12:25b). However, even in trying times, people’s tribal instinct still kicks in. Most people find comfort in labeling others, maybe because it makes things fit more easily into ‘their world’. The following — based on an on-line debate that was happening last week between Copts about the justifiability of suspending Church services — is simply a microcosm of the divisiveness we see in the world each day:
- “Faithful people”: The “faithful people” claim they have little (to no) fear when it comes to COVID-19, or any other risk for that matter. After all, these people tend to thrive when the cost is greatest and — if you asked them they would say with conviction that they — are ready to die for the sake of Jesus today! However, one of the dangers for this group is that they may have a tendency to look at others as being fearful and unfaithful to God. These were the folks on social media who were so enraged that they were unable able to commune the Holy Body and the Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they attacked and insulted others for suggesting that in-person services should be suspended.
- “Scientific-minded people”: Then there are the “scientific-minded people,” who tend to put a greater emphasis on the visible. They like to think of themselves as being more intellectually minded than others. One of the dangers for this group is that they may look to the “faithful people” as being reckless and irresponsible. These were the people who were attacking others for their “ignorance and irresponsibility for continuing to believe that going to Church would somehow keep them protected from sickness.”
Last week seems like a long time ago and most people throughout the world have eventually come to accept that it was the right decision to socially distance and stay home…based on both the compasses of science and faith. Since emotions were high last week and most humans don’t like unexpected change, this impacted our ability to see and understand one another’s perspectives. And so many people did what most of us oftentimes do when we don’t understand another person. They became critical of their views, judged their morals, and attacked them personally. That being said, more people are spending time at home — and on social media — with each other, which means there are ample more opportunities to notice the differences between us. If we’re not cautious, these differences, which could have been intended by God for our edification, may have devastating consequences.
Even if judgmental thoughts, critical attitudes, and divisive language is the norm of the world, it is imperative that we avoid such behavior, which will only lead to greater loss. There is another way! One of Jesus’ disciples said to Him “’Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side'” (Luke 9:49-50). So often our pride may blind us from understanding those in the ‘other camp’. The attitude is “any difference from how we see it is harmful.” Maybe we’re missing the point though, that Jesus wants to build the Church, marriages, families, friendships, and the world with those who have encountered Him from their varied life experiences. Our Lord’s point is very simple: If they’re not against us, then they’re for us! Today, we need that attitude more than ever!