Seek opportunities for grace and truth with COVID-19

By Rob Waldo  ·  May 25, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most disruptive events in recent history. Possibly the greatest disruption is not from the virus itself but from society’s response. As a result, we are witnessing the transformation of how citizens treat one another, how institutions permit access to even basic information, and what government demands of its citizens.

This is no small disruption.

Unfortunately, individuals and organizations are too often entrenching themselves in positions against one another with very little grace for others. Divisions are deepening in the Church, not just society. The rampant rise of cancel culture is signifying a growing intolerance to even treating others as if they exist. Even associating with “them” (meaning, those considered societally unacceptable for some reason) is grounds for canceling you.

Treating others as humans made in God’s image is apparently passé. It has become almost natural to silence those who wrong us or with whom we disagree—refusing even to work with or talk to them—while assuming our opinions are unchallengeable.

Seems like a perfect storm of offense, unforgiveness, and pride.

Societies throughout history have had their own versions of this. In the first century, Jesus’ teachings and associations with “sinners” contributed to Him being “canceled” through His crucifixion. The religious and political leaders didn’t want Jesus to exist. Society’s terms change, but sin’s destructiveness doesn’t.

A Savior was needed to set humanity free from its self-destruction. That is why Jesus came and why the Church’s witness to His truth and way of life is so vital.

So what do we do?

There is no easy path forward, but there is a clear one. Jesus’ mission (and, therefore, the Church’s) hasn’t changed (Matthew 28:18-20). The Word of God hasn’t changed (1 Peter 1:24-25). God Himself hasn’t changed (Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17)!

We must continue to make disciples, teaching others how to faithfully follow Jesus. We must use our influence to shape a Biblical worldview in society (Matthew 5:13-16). We must “plant” and “water” God’s Word, leaving the “growth” up to God (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). As we do these things, we must become even more committed to Jesus’ Church, the only institution that Jesus personally stated would prevail against the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18).

Finally, we are God’s agents sent out to build up individuals and society (Romans 15:2). We go against the grain of culture that has embraced deconstruction of institutions, beliefs, and people without offering constructive answers.

This means we must engage—with our families, workplaces, and society. Jesus wasn’t passive or silent, and His followers shouldn’t be either. We also do not join in hateful aggression, condescension, or slander. Truth must always be partnered with love.

Christ-honoring engagement takes wisdom.

Christ-honoring engagement takes wisdom. Individuals and institutions will engage in different ways and to different extents. For Samaritan, there are important topics we may not directly address. Our voice is just one within the Body of Christ, and we all are called to speak up in different ways.

Simultaneously, there are topics we intentionally discuss. This month’s article on the suppression of COVID-19 health care information is one topic we believe we must address. This topic matters to Samaritan members because we believe people should be allowed to make their own health care decisions without interference. But how is it even possible to make informed health care decisions when dissenting views are removed and discussion is silenced in the public square?

Or in private groups on social media?

Like others, a couple of times we have received a notice on social media that if we don’t remove member-posted content that the platform designates as “false” or “partly false” information, that platform will reduce the distribution of all the group’s posts. In such instances, the discussion has nothing to do with politics, extremism, conspiracy theories, violence, or hate. It simply has to do with whether a member (not Samaritan Ministries) posts COVID-19 content that contradicts media or government narratives.

Keep in mind that Samaritan hasn’t taken any stance on COVID-19 topics. Rather, because of a core value of liberty, we create a community where everyone can ask honest questions and discuss facts, data, and testimonials. That’s how we better ourselves and make better-informed decisions.

Now even the freedom to seek the truth by asking honest questions is being restricted.

Quite a societal turn, indeed.

Including in matters of religion, a society that begins to censor differing views will increasingly suppress people that do not kowtow to the prevailing wisdom of the day. Sadly, the Church has stains in its history in this regard, as well.

Finally, let’s go a step deeper: What does such censoring say about a society’s view of human dignity? Do we really believe that only a relatively small number of individuals who oversee government, media, education, and technology can handle opposing viewpoints? Is love, maturity, or wisdom possible when we remove the ability for people to form their own opinions and make their own decisions? And is science so settled and society so fragile that we cannot allow discussion on topics of far-reaching importance that affect how we live and govern ourselves?

The Biblical witness is that God calls humanity to live with dignity and responsibility. Truth and grace. Let’s not settle for less.

While the Church’s hands are not always clean, Jesus’ are. And, as His followers, and by His grace, we must humbly, courageously, wisely, and lovingly keep trying to represent Him in this contentious environment. So much is at stake.

Lean upon Jesus. Hold fast to the truth. Never forget love. And use your voice, even if, like ours, it may seem like just a tiny one out in the wilderness.