A Perspective of Perspectives on COVID 19
Written by my husband, Josh Smith
I don’t have all the answers. There I said it. That can be a struggle sometimes to admit. As a husband, a dad, a youth pastor, and a friend, there are a lot of folks that sometimes ask me for an answer but I don’t have them all. In these days of Covid-19 there have been many of us searching for answers to questions that we don’t know the answer to and if you are like me, sometimes when it comes to Coronavirus wanting answers but not even sure what questions to ask.
There are a couple of things that have become certainties from COVID that have become clear to me. I must say, I have had some friends personally that have had this sickness. For some it was flu-like symptoms for a week or so. For others, it was a long hospital stay with their lives in the balance. Sadly, as of a few days ago, over 100,000 American lives were reportedly lost because of it. I know there is much debate over the reporting of numbers and are they that high but the fact of the matter is, whether it is 10 or 10,000 for those that have lost a family member, friend, neighbor, or co-worker because of it, it has been devastating.
As terrible as the sickness can be, that is not what concerns me about COVID 19. Though death is a sad thing and hard for those left behind, even that is not the worst of it. To be honest the government forcing businesses, churches, and other entities to close gets under my skin but still that is not the worst of it. What could be worse than all of these?
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I have quietly watched as politicians have thrown insults and slander at each other over their viewpoints. I have seen family members and friends divided over whether or not one should wear a mask or if quarantine was right or wrong. I have seen folks become critical of each other because someone else handled it differently than someone else. I have watched sadly as even some preachers and pastors have criticized each other for modifying their services or for not modifying their services. The question that has burned in my heart is will it matter in eternity? I do not believe that Christ will be concerned with whether or not I wore a mask in public, but I do believe I will give an account for how I treated, responded to, and ministered to those around me, with or without a mask.
There are two great deceptions that I believe that this generation has bought into. The first is that if we disagree then we cannot love each other or be kind to each other. That could not be further from the truth, and even more importantly further from the example of Christ. Because you do not see COVID as I do, it does not mean that we can’t be friends! Picture for a moment the scene at the last supper. In a short time Judas will betray Jesus. Jesus being God knows this yet I am convinced He treated Judas no differently than the other disciples. He had a conversation with him. Our Lord even washed Judas’ feet. Had Jesus treated Judas differently, surely the disciples would not have questioned the Lord of who it was that would betray Him as they did in John 13. I must say, surely there are some things that are worth fighting for and standing ground over, but is it worth breaking a relationship or a testimony over the virus related issues of our day?
The second is that if I have a different take on COVID then I must hate you or vice versa. It puzzles me that we can disagree on sports teams, we can disagree on what foods are good and which ones are not so much. We can debate about so many things yet somehow when it comes to the issues of the virus, it becomes so much more. Why?
I have observed 2 main factors that have helped me with this. The first is the isolation piece. The reality of the way God created us is that we NEED interaction with others. Seeing someone smile, hearing their voice as they crack a joke, getting a solid handshake or a heartfelt hug affects us all and that has just not been possible. It is the special touches of life that makes it so great. We have not had the interaction we normally do. It can be a mental struggle for a lot of us. By nature I am a people person. At times, it has been tough not seeing those that I enjoy being around on a regular basis. Sure we can FaceTime, Zoom, and call but it’s just not the same. I am not alone either. Multiple agencies and help centers across the country have reported a spike in overdoses and suicide-related calls.
As a result, it has driven many of us to more social media time. Again, I am thankful for ways to communicate, but there is a major danger to social media. The message sent is often dependent solely on the mood or mindset of the reader at a given moment. Do you realize that the majority of our in-person communication is non-verbal? We communicate with our body language, our voice inflections, our smiles and if you are like my mama, our hands 🙂 When you take all of that away, it often handicaps the message that we are trying to convey, leaving us solely to the discretion of what the reader believes is the intended target. This is why we must be careful in our online communications. What will those not hearing my heart perceive by reading it from where they are? As believers, the challenge to my heart has been since all of the pandemic stuff has started, if someone looked at my social media would they see COVID or Christ as its focal point? Regardless of our circumstances, we must keep the main thing the main thing and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In days of so much confusion and hurt, those around us need to see Him now more than ever!
The question could arise then, why would generally like-minded people be so different when it comes to how to best handle the concerns or lack thereof over COVID 19? One WORD; PERSPECTIVE.
Noah Webster defined perspective as a view or vista. One’s perspective can change depending on where the view is from even if looking at the same circumstances. Imagine for a moment two climbers looking at Mount Everest. One stands at the bottom looking at the biggest tallest obstacle in the world. He knows that many have attempted to climb this mountain. Some have been successful, some have had to turn back, and others have died in their attempt. He understands that there is a peak opposite from where he is but to get there, there will be a battle, a test of physical and mental will, and sometimes some of the harshest weather conditions known to man. There will be extreme danger and an understanding that a wrong move or calculation and it could ultimately cost that climber his life.
Meanwhile, the other climber stands successfully on the peak of Mount Everest. He has fought the battle, he has made the climb and he is literally on top of the world. Having read stories of those that have made this climb to the top, they say it is unlike any feeling in the world. It is for many of them the pinnacle of years of hard work and training. Things could not be better as they have obtained ultimate success. The mountain did not change. The obstacles that are present did not change. The only difference is the perspective of the climber. In other words where they were truthfully viewing the mountain from, determined their feelings, emotions, and fears of this great giant.
The same is true with COVID. There are many perspectives that are extremely different from one another. It is not that one is less true or less significant. It is just the circumstances they are coming from, just like the climbers are so vastly opposite. I will use two members of my own family that come to mind. One is in his mid-60s with a long medical history and several fairly serious current health issues as well. The other is a young 20 something that is healthy and no pre-existing conditions. For the older, the reality is if he were to catch COVID, it would be an extremely difficult fight to survive if he survived it. For the young blood, he would potentially have a week off work in bed feeling awful but nonetheless according to the information we have, the greatest odds are he would recover and survive. There are others who have dealt with things like Cancer, autoimmune disorders, heart issues, or breathing issues that should they contract the virus the results could be tragic. And yet there are many others in their 20’s 30’s 40’s and beyond that because the blessing of great physical health would be ok. For one group or another to define the outlook of another or expect decisions based on their own personal viewpoint is just not fair.
As a result of the circumstances, the reactions, and the precautions are extremely different as well. For those with real health concerns or who live with those that have these conditions, it is necessary and responsible to be careful. Just as the climber at the bottom of the mountain has more supplies than the one at the top, it is understandable because their circumstances are so vastly different. For the younger healthy folks, while they shouldn’t be careless, the fear or precaution is probably not as great. This applies to individuals, businesses, and even churches. If anything, blanket statements just aren’t applicable these days because of the different situations.
From a church standpoint, there are variables. I must say that I am 100% against the government dictating what the church can and cannot do. However, from church to church there are many different variables that play in that may affect a pastor’s decisions for their church. Things like:
- What is the average age of the congregation? For a congregation that is extremely senior saint heavy, the risk or far greater from a ministry that is heavily populated with millennials.
- Do we have the facilities to social distance? Some churches are ready to go back but because of their facilities versus congregation size just don’t have room to spread out.
- Where are we located? The pastor of a small rural church in South Dakota where there are not a lot of folks coming and going has far less risk to his congregation than a large ministry in the middle of New York City.
Again, I am not saying one way or the other is right or wrong, just that the viewpoints in light of the circumstances are different and sometimes require different responses based on those circumstances.
Throughout all of these days I have been reminded of the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 when he said:
“For though I am free from all men, yet have made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.”
Paul was not concerned about the viewpoint of the law, the strength or weakness of those around him, or the freedom they did or did not have. His mission was to simply look beyond the current state of where they were and reach them where they were at with the Gospel and love of Jesus Christ.
Whether we wear a mask and gloves or not, whether there is hand sanitizer in your center console or not, whether you think COVID is the biggest threat to humanity or the biggest conspiracy in history, as believers let us not lose our perspective of the most important things, loving God and loving each other. I may not have all the answers, but I do know THE ANSWER, and His name is Jesus Christ. That is a perspective that won’t change and is true no matter where you are looking from!