More than four million infected and 148,866 deaths. Those are the coronavirus statistics shared by the US Centers for Disease Control at the end of July. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization reports 16,523,815 COVID cases, with 655,112 deaths worldwide.
How many more COVID-19 casualties will there be by the time you read this? How many more before there is a vaccine? But how dependable are all these statistics? I think there may be millions more of unreported COVID-19 casualties before this is all over.
The unreported casualties? They may include higher numbers of domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, or depression and other mental health issues that arise as a tragic by-product to the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” orders that have been in place in much of the United States.
The unreported casualties? Government estimates for May indicated the unemployment rate caused by this pandemic might have been 16 percent, a figure not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
I’m troubled by what COVID-19 has done to a rigorous, informed, yet civil exchange of information about the pandemic.
But those aren‘t the unreported casualties I’m thinking about. I’m troubled by what COVID-19 has done to a rigorous, informed, yet civil exchange of information about the pandemic.
Instead of dialogue and debate, we dig trenches and ready ourselves for war. Over what? Mask or no mask? What about six-foot social distancing? Handshakes or hugs? Share your personal views on issues like these, and you better hunker down into your trench to avoid incoming fire!
This heated war of words can also spill over into our congregations. Battle lines can be drawn over livestreaming worship versus in-person worship; singing or no singing; passing the offering plate or placing the plate on a stand in the back of church; a handshake or an elbow bump after worship. Why is it that we seem all too quick to take “words and actions in the worst possible way” rather than “the kindest possible way” (Eighth Commandment, Luther’s explanation)?
Now is not the time for us to forget the inspired proverb, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Nor will we want to ignore the warning shared by James, half-brother of our Lord: “Consider how a little flame can set a large forest on fire! And the tongue is a fire” (James 3:5,6). Now more than ever we Christians need to let our “speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you know how you are to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).
Sadly, I also dredged down into my trench and fired away at others who didn’t share my “enlightened” ideas. Self-interests controlled my tongue, and I sinned in my speech. What about you?
Then let’s ask forgiveness from the fellow believers we pierced with our words. Also join hands with me—virtually—and confess those inflammatory words to the One whose every word is pure, true, and selfless.
Finally, rejoice to know that the Lord reaches down into our trenches with his gracious guarantee: “Yes, as high as the heavens are above the earth, so powerful is his mercy toward those who fear him. As distant as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our rebellious acts from us” (Psalm 103:11,12).
The Scripture references used in this article are from the Evangelical Heritage Version.
Author: Glenn Schwanke
Volume 107, Number 09
Issue: September 2020