We want to inspire and release every Christian student to pursue the biblical call to social justice. We want to raise up a generation of leaders who engage in a whole-life, lifelong pursuit of Jesus and justice. This vision matters now more than ever.
Now more than ever, we need the next generation of the church to be mobilising to support the most vulnerable in our communities. Now more than ever, we need people to show character and selflessness, rather than hoarding goods for themselves. Now more than ever, we need to raise up leaders who are preparing to fight for justice in the aftermath of a crisis that will likely leave more people suffering and marginalised than before. This is a difficult and defining time for the church and for our generation – how will we respond?
This is the first of a six part series where we will share ideas about how the Just Love community should engage with this moment.
“Stop. Stop, and know that I am God”
It’s interesting that those famous words from Psalm 46 – “Be still, and know that I am God” – could just as easily be translated “Stop. Stop, and know that I am God”
The sense of the Psalm is that God is calling a sudden and drastic halt to the frantic busyness of human activity – in particular the designs and machinations of kings and of empires. “See how I make wars cease to the ends of the earth”, says God, “shattering the sword and breaking the spear… be still and know that I am God”.
In a similar way, the coronavirus has forced many of us to stop. Not all of us, sure, but even for those of us who have just seen our workload increase dramatically – everyone from single mums to healthcare professionals – this is still a moment of such profound rupture, of difference from the norm, that it causes us to think. And whenever we are granted a chance to “stop” like this, it is important to take it, and ask God what he’s trying to say.
Now, don’t hear me wrong. I’m not claiming that God has in some way ‘designed’ coronavirus – it’s evil. That’s just not what I’m getting at. And yet, in the midst of it all, is it possible that there are things for us to learn? In particular about reality, grief and hope.
Today let’s focus on the first of those – reality.
We are living through one of the most extraordinary moments of our lifetimes. Have you had the chance yet just to pause and come to terms with it all? We owe it to ourselves to just process this moment, to count the cost of it. But I’m not just talking about the reality of coronavirus. This crisis can cause us to stop and reflect on other emergencies too.
The pastor and theologian A.W. Tozer once wrote these words:
“Humanity is in perpetual crisis. Until Christ comes to restore and redeem creation, the earth remains a disaster area and its inhabitants live in a state of extraordinary emergency. To me it has always been difficult to understand those who insist upon living in the crisis as if no crisis existed at all.”
If we let it, coronavirus has the power to wake us up to a whole load of other long emergencies that have been going on around us each day for much longer than the past few weeks, and which, left unchecked, will continue way beyond this period.
What about the long emergency of global poverty – with 800 million people going to bed under-nourished each day? Or the long emergency of global land dispossession, climate change and rising sea levels, the refugee crisis?
I read today that South Africa, with one the best public health systems on the African Continent, has fewer than 1,000 intensive care unit (ICU) beds for a population of 56 million. In Malawi, there are about 25 ICU beds in public hospitals, serving 17 million people. The main infectious diseases hospital in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe, reportedly has none. Even in normal times, the USA spends 298 times more on healthcare per citizen than the Central African Republic. If nothing else, the coronavirus can shine the cold light of day on just how unequal our global health system is.
But that’s not to say we should stop treating it as an emergency here. Of course we should! It’s about letting this thing open our eyes, reshape our perspective. Take the 70 million people displaced around the world today, most of whom are in countries that already struggled to feed their populations even before a mass influx of refugees. If in even the slightest of ways the self-isolation we must experience in these months can lift our eyes to the plight of refugees who go weeks, months, years, or even decades not knowing when they will next see those they love, then this crisis will have changed us.
If we allow it, the coronavirus can give us a new lens through which to see the world. But that will require us to stop, to pause, and take time for reality. The road doesn’t end with reality, but winds through the valleys of grief and lament and on into hope – not a brittle hope, but one refined. We’ll come to these things – to lament, and to hope, soon. But the road does start with “pause”, with “be still”. May this, even as we act – for we must act – also be a time to cease. To live these words with Jesus: Reality, Grief, and Hope.