Lately I’ve found myself thinking about a 2007 movie, Love in a Time of Cholera. The movie got terrible reviews, and I never bothered to see it. However, I’m intrigued by the title, especially in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
What does love look like in a time of pandemic? How can we express our love when we must practice “social distancing” and remain at least six feet apart at all times?
I’m glad you asked!
First of all, it’s interesting that Jesus warned of times like these. He predicted a coming day when there would be plagues, famines, and earthquakes in many parts of the world – yet those wouldn’t be the worst things. An even more grim condition would be this: “Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). If the plagues and natural disasters weren’t bad enough, Jesus said the world would be filled with lawlessness and lukewarm love.
What a sad situation!
Indeed, there’s much lawlessness today – probably a lot more than we even realize. We’re mirroring the days of Judges, when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
Lawlessness is by nature self-centered. Love, in contrast, is sacrificial, centered on meeting the needs of others.
It’s sobering that the word used for “love” in Jesus’ prediction is agape, usually referring to the love of Christians. This means it’s not just unbelievers who experience a shortage of love during turbulent times – the church is affected too.
However, I choose to look at a more positive view of the current situation. When things are darkest in the world, God’s people have our greatest opportunity to arise and shine (Isaiah 60:1-5).
Notice that this is already happening as the world is traumatized by the coronavirus. Instead of just hunkering down and practicing self-preservation, Christian organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, Somebody Cares, and Convoy of Hope are being deployed to aid thousands of people in America and beyond.
Even though we’re each facing challenges of our own, we should be asking ourselves how we can sow seeds of “goodness and mercy” to our loved ones and neighbors (Psalm 23:6). It’s no accident that Jesus taught His disciples about servanthood and “washing each other’s feet” just days before He endured the cross. You see, our true character is not revealed on carefree days but when we face times of stress and tribulation.
Now is a good time to remember the words of Mother Teresa: “Small acts of kindness, done with great love, can change the world.” There’s no need to wait for our “big moment.” We each can get started today.
Love When the World Is Shaking
In recent weeks, I’ve heard many people quote Hebrews 12:26-29 to describe the world’s present turmoil:
Now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.
What a timely passage! The world, the church, and each one of us is being shaken today. Some of the structures we’ve relied upon will not survive this shaking. And the world will be a different place when we come to the end of this dark tunnel.
Yet there’s a silver lining. I’m convinced that the fire will serve to prune and cleanse us. We’ll discover that, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, there’s a “fourth man” in the fire with us (Daniel 3). When this fiery trial is over, we’ll find that the ropes that once bound us have been burned away.
In the original text of Hebrews 12, there were no chapter divisions. So it’s sad that we often act as if this passage ends at Hebrews 12:29. It’s important to note that the first verse of chapter 13 is a vital part of the context: “Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.”
Wow. Do you see how profound this is? In times of shaking, cholera, financial downturns, or COVID-19, we’re challenged to make sure we keep on loving each other. The fire is meant to purify our love rather than diminish it.
The apostle Paul noted that faith, hope, and love are the three indispensable characteristics of the Christian life (1 Corinthians 13:13). But of these three, he said love is the greatest. Why? Because love never fails…never gives up…and never ends (v. 8). Come what may, genuine love survives every storm. Yes, it will be tested during times like the coronavirus, but love will prevail!