A Biblical way to re-enter society
Before COVID-19, re-entry was a term commonly used when returning from vacation back to the normal daily grind. Ah, vacations. Remember those? With more than 20 states around America reopening after weeks and weeks of quarantine, re-entry now takes on a whole new meaning.
Some re-enter with great enthusiasm, relishing freedoms they feel should never have been taken away. Some re-enter with cautious optimism, ready to return to business but not necessarily eager to enjoy restaurants, the mall or movies. Some aren’t ready to re-enter at all, choosing to stay home and exercise restrictions for the safety of at-risk family members, or perhaps for their own comfort and anxiety levels.
Once again, the country and the Church is split on how to proceed.
As Christians, the question of when we re-enter society is not nearly important as how we re-enter society. Specifically, how do we proceed in a way that is glorifying to God and esteeming to one another, whatever the timing may be?
As always, searching Scripture to guide us so that God’s word can be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path is the best way to gain wisdom and guidance on the way forward. There are more verses in the Bible that could apply to our present circumstance than not, but the following one touches on a particular tone we would all do well to embrace in such a divisive time:
“Let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6).
We aren’t all going to agree on the way forward. But we can all agree to *try* to discuss it with grace and in a way that preserves, not destroys, relationships. The answers to our questions of when to return to church, when to hug an elderly parent or grandparent (or when to hug your grandchild), when to visit your immunocompromised friend (or when to go out if you’re immunocompromised), or when to fly on an airplane will vary based on a myriad of factors. These are important questions that carry a lot of weight.
But what will the headline of your heart be as you transition to the next phase?
Will it be a banner of fear or an anthem of arrogance? Or will it be a hymn of hope and humility? How will you speak to others regarding your decision, and theirs, of when to return to some semblance of normal? Because if we’ve learned anything through this pandemic, it is how interconnected we all really are.
How we treat one another during re-entry is just as important as how we’ve treated each other during quarantine.
Wouldn’t it be a shame if after this monumental, once-in-a-lifetime occasion we regressed to the same rhetoric and senseless speech that divides instead of unifies us?
Scripture says that Christ is preeminent over all creation, which includes politics, patriotism and personal preferences (Colossians 1:15-16). This is true with or without a virus. Yet, so often, even amongst Christians, politics, patriotism and personal preference pushes Christ to the side.
How, then, can we ensure our passion is for God and His will during this re-entry?
1. Pause in humility and reflection
Before we bolt back into a version of normal, it’s important that we pause to reflect on the past six weeks. Make a list of the things in your life that have been missed (and what hasn’t). Decide in advance how your life and schedule will be different, if needed. What areas of comfort and control did God loosen and sift? What needs to grow and what needs to go?
In the beginning of this quarantine, I wrote about 3 Ways Suffering Sanctifies Us:
We realize we aren’t in control.
We realize where we have excess.
We realize where we have lack.
Reflect back on this list and humbly ask God to close the door on the areas of your life that are hindering you from Him or draining joy. Don’t short circuit the refinement process God has underway in you personally just because doors are being re-opened corporately.
“Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4).
The end of quarantine is the beginning of a new kind of season, where we learn through trial and error how to live in community again.
As everyone’s situation is different – physically, mentally, financially – pray about how your family should proceed in a way that loves God with all your heart, mind, strength and soul and loves your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27).
For some of us, that will mean returning to church, business and recreational activities as soon as possible. For others, that will mean staying at home a little while longer, perhaps even against our personal preference but for the greater good of family, friends or our own wellbeing.
“Continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way …” (Colossians 1:9).
Ask God to guide you in all wisdom regarding how to make these decisions, how to orient yourself to this situation, and how to speak about the current climate with compassion and awareness of others' circumstances.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you" (James 1:5).
3. Preserve relationships over personal preference
On the night before Texas reopened, a few of my husband's and my close friends gathered for a “Luke 15:23” feast. I’ve attended a lot of themed celebrations, but this was a first. The dinner was based on the parable of the lost son, who prematurely took his father’s inheritance, squandered it, disgraced the family name and then returned to beg for a place at the servant’s table. Shockingly, the father ran out to greet the son, embraced him and threw him a party to celebrate that what was lost had been found.
Irrespective of all our opinions on the quarantine and the way forward, my friends came together as one body, unified to celebrate God’s provision for our families and an imminent return to some of the freedoms we temporarily lost due to the coronavirus.
We were able to feast not because we agreed on everything, but because we were celebrating God’s provision and not our own opinions.
Unity in the body of Christ doesn’t mean uniformity. We can be of one mind through the Holy Spirit yet have different perspectives. As we go forward in the phased reopening, we should remember the most important thing isn't that we all agree. It is to live our lives worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:27).
This means, like Jesus, we let love prevail. We meet people where they are and do it with gentleness and respect (I Peter 3:15).
If that means meeting outdoors with masks on, do it to preserve the relationship. If that means talking over another FaceTime or Zoom call when it’s the last thing you want to do, do it anyway to preserve the relationship. If that means being patient until a person is ready to meet at all, do it to preserve the relationship. If that means attending church with a mask on even if you don't think it's necessary, do it to preserve community.
“Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3).
Viruses will come and go, but relationships should remain. Re-entry provides a unique opportunity to show loved ones how much we value them. No matter how long it takes, work to preserve the relationship over your personal preferences.
The coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon. It is uncertain when life as we once knew it will return. While there is still much to be determined, don’t let differences in re-entry drive a wedge between you and a loved one. Don't let fear or arrogance override relationship or the worthiness of the gospel. Let hope and humility be the hymn you sing. Let love prevail.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35).