I read in the news today that the streets of Beirut are empty. Ditto the streets of Baghdad, Beijing, London and New York. ISIS, of all people, is telling its followers not to travel because of the virus. When you look at the Centers for Disease Control's map of the world, there are a small handful of countries without COVID-19 cases. You can't help but wonder if that is because of a lack of testing. Whatever normal was, it isn't now.
It feels like the whole world is shutting down. Unemployment claims in our country jumped 3,000% in March. The governor of my state has shut down all businesses that require close contact. I squeezed in and got a haircut before the deadline. Who knows when I will get another haircut by a professional?
All around the world, restaurants are closed. We've gone back in time when most meals were cooked at home. I'm seeing parts of my freezer I didn't know existed. People are binge watching shows, but if you like to watch sports, you've been dropped into the desert.
One evening this week, we went for a drive. We had no destination, just wanted to get out of the house. For the first time in my life, I understood the whole idea of a "Sunday drive." Just ramble. Take a road you've never taken and see where it takes you. Everyone in the world is feeling cooped up.
In an odd way, it's comforting to know that everyone in world is experiencing this. The concern about COVID-19 is the same in Wuhan, China, as it is in Sumter. No one wants to get this virus. Everyone wants to get this over as soon as possible. Everyone is waiting, which is some of the hardest work to do.
If you pause and think about it, when was the last time everyone on the planet was experiencing the same thing? Never. The mom in Johannesburg, South Africa, deals with the same thing as the mom in Tokyo.
People have asked me if God is trying to tell us something. I'm sure he is. I've seen the preachers who are declaring this is the beginning of the end. Other preachers are saying this is God's judgment on the world.
I don't know for sure about any of that, but here's what I do know for sure: We are all God's creation. Human beings spend enormous energy dividing ourselves. We look at people with a different color skin, or a different language, or a different religion, and we find a reason to hate. We construct versions of reality that tell us we are better than other people because of where we live or where we've gone to school. I love my country, but being an American doesn't make me better than a Russian.
The Apostle Paul wrote a great truth in Romans: "God is no respecter of persons " There is a lot of theology packed into that verse. God sees all of us as we truly are. He knows every person on this planet, all 7.8 billion of us. He knows every one of us will have a moment when we realize there is a problem we cannot solve by wealth, ancestry or nationality. Right now, all 7.8 billion of us are realizing we are vulnerable to a virus that is no respecter of persons. From the slums of Mumbai to the high-rises of Dubai, the virus will not discriminate.
We are the world. Every person on this planet is a creation of God, whether he or she knows him or not. Everyone is a microscopic particle away from infection. We are the world waiting.
That's why we need something else God said about this world: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life."
Whatever your fears, anxieties, depressions, do not forget this: There is a God who loves you. He gave his son for you. When you believe this, death - whether it comes from a virus or a cancer or old age - will not have the last word over you. God does. And he wants you to have a life that goes beyond death. A life that starts when you believe.
We are the world God loves. Believe.
The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.
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