Media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic is ubiquitous. Much of this coverage focuses on the respective roles of politicians at both the federal and state governments in addressing this crisis, a topic for a possible musing at a later date.In this musing, I will focus on those media reports that are often reserved for the end of newscasts; reports about the on-the-ground heroes among us.
I am encouraged and moved to tears by the media reports on those many citizens, irrespective of political affiliation, who are actively serving fellow Americans in dire need. These heroic Americans include doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners serving Covis-19 victims in hospitals, emergency rooms and nursing homes, often putting themselves in danger while doing so; persons volunteering at food pantries seeking to provide adequate food supplies for those who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic; those working in grocery stores; those providing delivery services of food and other necessary goods; those first responders, such as paramedics, policemen and firefighters; those participating in drive-by birthday celebrations or singing to their neighbors from their apartment balconies; those making encouraging telephone calls to elderly friends who are house-bound; those providing for the education of the children of America by means of virtual learning; and those parents caring for their children round-the-clock at home. The list could go on.
What is it that motivates such heroism? Each such hero will have to give a personal response. My sense is that in times of crisis, what comes to the fore, in the minds of many citizens, if not always in the political class, is a fresh realization that human beings are meant to care for one another; they are not isolated individuals who seek only their personal good. And those heroes demonstrate that special attention needs to be paid to addressing the needs of those who are less fortunate than they are; persons who are often marginalized in our society.
Jesus would certainly approve. For when he was asked about who would “inherit the Kingdom [of God]” he pointed to those who did the following:
… I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me (Matthew 25:35-36).
When those who heard Jesus speak this parable couldn’t comprehend how these acts of kindness toward others were also acts directed toward Jesus, he added that “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (v. 40).
News reports about these modern-day heroes say little, if anything, about the religious or secular faith commitments that may motivate their caring so deeply for the well-being of others. I am guessing that these commitments are quite varied since a number of views about the ultimate nature of reality (what have been called “worldviews”) embrace the obligation to care deeply for our fellow human beings.
As a professing Christian, which I take to most fundamentally mean that I aspire to be a follower of Jesus, I must confess that I do not always live up to the Matthew 25 ideal of caring for the well-being of others, especially those who are less fortunate and marginalized. At the same time, I am dismayed at the large number of professing Christians who no longer embrace this ideal. It is as if they skipped Matthew 25 in their Bible reading.
From my recent conversations with such professing Christians, I can only surmise that they have become captive to the values of hyper-individualism that pervade American culture, often falling captive to their political affiliation. They appear to embrace the unbiblical view that “freedom” means exclusively pursuing your own personal goals, as long as your doing so does not impede others from doing likewise.
In sharp contrast, if one calls into question the dominant individualistic cultural values in American society by digging down deep to Christian values, the concept of “freedom” is defined in communal terms. Our freedom should be expressed in service to others rather than as an “opportunity for self-indulgence” (see Galatians 5:13).
This is not to present a false choice between “individualism” and “community,” properly understood. Human beings are both individuals and social beings living in various communities. So, each professing Christian must strike a proper balance between pursuing personal goals and caring deeply for members of the communities in which they live. My perception is that too many who profess to be followers of Jesus have succumbed to a severe imbalance that ignores the teachings of Matthew 25 and Galatians 5.
So, Jesus and I (placing myself in good company) applaud the many modern-day heroes who are caring deeply for others (neighbors and those they don’t even know) during the perilous coronavirus pandemic with which we are all struggling.