Love thy neighbour

As the world transitioned from 2019 into a new decade, how many of us were familiar with the terms; Coronavirus, self-isolation and social distancing? Few, if any, I suspect. There’s no doubt we are living in unprecedented times and by now, there are few that have not been touched by the silent and deadly pandemic sweeping the globe. Could anyone have imagined their lives so drastically reshaped in just a few weeks.

In these unfamiliar times, it’s natural to feel helpless and scared. Bombarded by the media, and in an effort to stay informed, it’s easy to fixate on the worst aspects of this terrible season; the fear of loss and physical suffering, the loneliness of isolation and enforced separation from loved ones, the worry of economic hardship and the selfishness, ignorance and greed of others which appear so prevalent. And yet, every day, we also learn of extraordinary acts of love, selflessness, empathy, compassion and ingenuity.

Who could fail to be inspired by the teams of medical staff and carers; those who lay their lives on the line every day to save the sick and the dying. Supermarket and delivery teams patiently help hordes of people afraid of going out or going without. Across the nation, volunteer groups have sprung up to coordinate support to the elderly and vulnerable and engineering firms have been mobilised to produce ventilators in place of their usual products. Images of balcony singalongs and amateur musicians playing to communities in lockdown uplift us, and we are charmed by a myriad of rainbows pasted in windows by children across America; colourful beacons of joy and hope to passers-by. And I would challenge anyone not to be humbled by the selfless example of the Italian priest who willingly gave his precious respirator to a younger man, and in doing so sacrificed his own life.

These are the examples to focus on, for they reflect the most honourable of human qualities. They reinforce the importance of the scriptural mandate to ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ and they remind us of the comfort to be found in fellowship, shared human experience and even self-sacrifice. And perhaps beyond Covid-19 people of the world will be a little more benevolent; kinder, gentler, and more thankful for the blessings so often taken for granted.

Now it seems that the pace at which the virus has spread across the globe has urged many people to turn to the Bible for reassurance, and for answers that give purpose, hope and comfort in these difficult times. They are there to be found. In the meantime, let us follow the example set by Jesus; by putting our trust in God, by being thankful for what we have, by taking care of the vulnerable and afraid, by being selfless in our actions and by giving and loving courageously.

Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. Not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of the others” – Philippians 2:3-4