We are one body, so the Bible says. “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” COVID-19 has brought with it many painful lessons. COVID-19 has unearthed just-below-the-surface realities that were glaringly evident pre-pandemic to many in our world (food insecurity, inaccessible healthcare, living a paycheck away from financial disaster, no paid sick leave). COVID-19 has relentlessly revealed just how vulnerable we are physically, economically, socially. COVID-19 has also brought home to me the truth of our interconnectedness. As it turns out, we are, in fact, one body — whether we like it or not. When one part of the world gets the coronavirus, the rest of the world, eventually, will be infected too. I confess that in February I felt immune. China, after all, is very far away. Other horrific diseases had come and gone without breaching our borders, surely this one would stay away too. In March I assumed we would spend a few weeks at home and then life would resume as usual. Come July I still thought we would see yellow school buses picking up kids in September.
Now, months and months into this pandemic reality, I wonder if masks will ever be an item we look at and think, “Remember that time…” Now, after months and months of social distancing, I wince when I see a crowd scene in some long-ago filmed television show. Now I listen to news of other countries faring better and think it sure would be nice to be there, or at least get to travel somewhere, anywhere, again. I now know we cannot isolate one part of the body from the whole even with stay-at-home orders. Our best efforts at walling ourselves off from the rest of the globe do not work and we would do well to recognize the truth that we are one body, and therefore our health is inextricably tied to the well-being of others. Our interconnectedness is inescapable, like a mobile hanging over a child’s crib, when one part moves, even slightly, the entire structure reverberates in response. Think climate change, trade policy and, yes, a highly contagious virus.
Inevitably, when we neglect or injure or exploit one member, one part, one people, country or demographic, the whole body suffers — perhaps not immediately, but surely and ultimately. This pandemic shows that those with the most resources certainly fare better and can weather life’s storms more readily and comfortably than those already stretched beyond capacity; but even those at the very top of the social and economic ladder are not immune from this virus. Hollywood celebrities, leaders of nations, sports stars — none have escaped unscathed. The difference comes, however, in the impact of this illness. While it may infect indiscriminately, there is a tremendous difference in death rate and devastation. Parts of the body are unarguably suffering more than other parts. We must ask ourselves: Do we care? Will we feel the hurt of the suffering part of us or will we attempt to deny it until the pain becomes so intolerable that it cannot be ignored any longer and recovery near impossible?
Like climate change, natural disasters and so much more, COVID-19 has an outsized, harmful impact on those already on the margins of our world, but all of us are vulnerable to its sickening effects. We are indisputably and irrevocably one body, and as followers of the Savior of the world we are called to respond with love to any part of creation that suffers. We are called to tend not only to the present wound but address all the underlying, chronic illnesses that cause some parts of the body to endure far more pain than others. As we navigate this global pandemic and look to God for wisdom, will we be willing to recognize our interconnectedness? Will we seek to do whatever it takes to not return to a normal that left parts of the body in perpetual pain, but instead embark on creating a new kind of life together that renders the whole body cared for and healthy? With God’s help, could this chaotic chronos time become for us a kairos moment?
Grace and peace,