“Speak the truth in love.” This is a phrase that many churches have used for years to justify spreading unfair judgement, misinformation, and ignorance. Don’t get me wrong — I used to love this phrase. When used correctly, it’s a beautiful sentiment. It means loving your neighbors and sharing Jesus with them. It means holding your friends accountable without making them feel guilty. However, when used incorrectly, this phrase becomes a weapon. Especially during a pandemic.
There are so many huge and important issues going on in the world right now — the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter protests, and the continued efforts for the protection of the LGBTQ+ rights. And for every issue happening, there are numerous opinions on how we should create positive change and improve our society. One big voice is the church and its leaders. With an entire congregation looking up to them for direction, they have a responsibility not only to speak up but to come forth with accurate, factual information.
“Speaking the truth in love” means basing your information on the bible and what God says. I completely agree with this.
Despite our differences, we should all care for the sick, support each other during difficult times, and treat people with respect. However, preaching that fear is the real pandemic is dangerous. People are dying. They are dying from this virus, not from fear. Yes, fear is dangerous and it can take over your life and even cause health issues, but tell the countless families who have lost loved ones that “fear is the real pandemic.” I think the fear is warranted. I think we should all be concerned. I think we should listen to medical professionals and take necessary precautions to reduce the destruction that COVID-19 is bringing to our lives.
Furthermore, I do not believe in spending every waking moment worrying about contracting COVID-19. However, I do believe in following state and local guidelines, and even taking extra precautions when the government is not doing enough. I believe in protecting people, and I believe in social responsibility to our communities to keep each other safe. I do not believe any religion gives you a pass to put communities at risk by not doing your part to flatten the curve. No matter what you call it, this is not religious freedom. This is social irresponsibility.
When I hear about a fellow church member testing positive for COVID-19, and then the subsequent news that the church officials will be doing nothing differently, it concerns me greatly. I understand that releasing their name would be a violation of privacy. But what about finding out which services has this member attended and notifying the people who came into contact with said person? What about reinstating social distancing rules? What about providing masks and hand sanitizer for those who still want to be there in person?
This is speaking the truth in love. In my state of Florida, there were 5,004 new cases yesterday. So far, close to 125k people have died in the U.S. alone.
God and prayer have the power to heal, but social distancing and taking precautions cannot be ignored. When you contract a virus, you pray but you also go to the doctor. Listening to medical professionals’ advice was never frowned upon before, so why is it now? You can pray and believe that God will heal the world. But it does not absolve you from the responsibility to take care of your neighbors in practical ways.
I am not living in fear. Instead, I am walking in love — for my community, for the elderly, for the immunocompromised, and for all the healthcare and other essential workers. Please be respectful of these at-risk groups by educating yourselves, only spreading accurate information, and not minimizing the reality of the danger that COVID-19 poses. I am not telling you to hide under your covers in fear, but do not encourage unnecessary physical contact. And above all, do not downplay the prevalence of this virus and the pandemic and the effect it has already had on families and people around the whole world.
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