The only way we will make it through this intact is to stop assuming the worst about each other. Instead, we must decide we will assume the best about each other. If we want to save America, that’s where it starts.
At the end of the day, most people want what’s best for their family and for their community. They want everyone to be happy and to live in peace. We just have different beliefs about how we will arrive there.
Why do some people hear a body of evidence and conclude one thing, while others hear the same information and land on an opposite page entirely? It’s a mystery. Many factors and experiences make us who we are and influence how we think.
As a pastor trying to decide how to move a church forward, I’ve talked with many people about what they think we should do. I can’t recall anything like this. It is not uncommon for me to call up or meet with people who I see as the smartest, wisest, and godliest people I know, yet they each have a different opinion entirely about whether the church should gather onsite, and, if so, how we should gather. This is also true for many other Covid dilemmas.
What does that tell me? This is complicated.
I hear some people who want us to stay online only. We should all be quarantining and wearing a mask whenever we’re outside our own home. They are not cowering in fear. Many aren’t even concerned about their own family getting the virus. They aren’t trying to get Biden elected. They honestly believe that is the best path. We should lay down our own freedoms and conveniences on behalf of the most vulnerable. Jesus did so on the cross. They know the Way of Jesus. They are not cowards. They are not idiots. They are not trying to pave the way for communism. We must believe the best about their thoughts and intentions.
I hear other people, also among the most godly people I know, who believe the church should be open. They love Jesus and believe face-to-face community is essential for the soul. Children should also be in schools. They believe that the emotional, mental, and spiritual damage being done to children and adults in isolation is worse than the risks from the virus. It’s not that they are selfish. It’s not that they believe the virus is a hoax. Many have no plans to vote for Trump. It’s not that they just don’t get it. They’ve read everything you have. They sincerely believe the shutdown is more dangerous than the virus because people need normal interaction.
Still others see the shutdown and masks as something deeply sinister. They’ve read what we’ve read, but they honestly believe that Satan is up to something massive and sense the call to fight against it. They are not careless. They love people deeply and desperately want to save humanity. One more killer meme is not going to change their hearts. They are not idiots either. It’s not their political agenda that drives them, it’s their theological beliefs.
Certainly there are some who are driven by politics and economics. I do not believe this is the majority. I believe that most people want what’s best for everybody. They’ve read it all and heard it all. We land different places.
Again, I’ve talked with the godliest, wisest, and most biblically literate people I know. They land in very different places on how we should respond to Covid.
Now for something clear and certain.
Jesus once said, “Anyone who calls his brother, ‘Raca’ (idiot), is in danger of the fires of hell.” Those words were originally written in Greek. The word translated “hell” is Gehenna. It was an actual place in Jesus’ day. It was a wasteland where devastating wars and unspeakable acts had taken place. Some locals in Jerusalem today hold that it was the regional dump in Jesus’ time. Jesus was saying that when we start calling each other idiots we will create a wasteland. This is what we are doing to each other. That is what we are doing to America.
“Idiots!” “How could you be so dumb?” “Selfish!” “How can people be so stupid?” “Cowards!” “Sheep!” “What’s wrong with you people?!” These words and phrases are laced throughout Facebook these days. Facebook has become the new Gehenna. To be clear, I’m not above this language myself.
Could it be that, while we are fighting to save each other, we are actually destroying each other with our words and assumptions? In trying to save America, we are killing our communal spirit by assuming the absolute worst of each other. America is becoming the Gehenna Jesus warned us about. We are fueling the fires of hell with our words.
Can we all commit to believing the best about each other? Let’s assume the best intentions. Let’s cling to the image of God baked into each person we interact with. Believe the best and let God discern the heart. It’s the only way forward.
Regardless of our response to the virus, the vast majority of us will still be here on the other side of this pandemic. Following the words of Jesus will create the best environment for the long haul. Ignoring His words will further destroy our country and our souls. At which point, the virus will have been the least of our problems.