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Loving my Neighbour in the Midst of COVID-19

For the sake of others. Pause. Read the reports. Look at the figures. Look at the graphs. Look at hospital reports. Read the World Health Organisation reports. Read the testimonies of doctors and patients who are in or have been in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. Consider this prayerfully, objectively and intelligently. For the sake of others and loving your neighbour.

For the Sake of the Weak

I keep hearing… “I will be fine” or “I will self-isolate” (in homes with access to food, soap and running water) or “it only affects the elderly or immunocompromised” or “it isn’t that bad”.

Please think about this… what if you are not “fine”? What if you are one of the fit, healthy ‘normal’ people who get sick? Very sick. Requiring ICU treatment and hospital bed occupation, requiring the care of nurses and doctors who become exposed because of your illness. Requiring the use of a bed, perhaps at the cost of another patient’s treatment. What if you consume scarce medical resources that could have been spent on someone who is elderly or immunocompromised? At least 8 medical workers in China have died from COVID-19 including one doctor who was 29 and another who was 34. There have also been reports of athletes who have been in ICU.

For the Sake of the Poor

What if we unknowingly become a vector of the coronavirus disease for someone who goes to a home that is not a brick house, but a tin shack, in a township, with a source of running water that gets intermittently turned off? What if we unknowingly spread COVID-19 to someone who does not have a private source of transport to get to a hospital, but needs to get in a crowded bus or taxi to travel? What if we contaminate someone who is unable to safely quarantine because they share a small living space with four or five other family members?

God’s word calls us to love our neighbours (Matthew 22:36-39). Surely, at a time like this, loving our neighbour includes doing everything we can to not transmit this virus?

Surely, at a time like this, loving our neighbour includes doing everything we can to not transmit this virus?

Our poorer communities have not brought the source of this virus home, and yet they will suffer the most. The 7 million immunocompromised people living with HIV and TB will suffer. Not to mention the devastation it will cause on the healthcare systems, economy, education, and care of children. ‘We’ may be okay, but if we do not act on behalf of others, our community will not be okay, our city will not be okay, our country will not be okay. Not to mention how it will affect the families of those from other countries in Africa. Families who have come to work in South Africa to provide for their relatives living in other parts of this beautiful continent.

In just three weeks Italy jumped from a handful of cases to military lockdown. All elective surgery shut. Elective operating theatres dedicated to COVID-19. Hospitals functioning at 200% capacity. Patients over the age of 65 being turned away. Patients with co-morbidities being turned away. Doctors needing to choose who to treat, and who not. And this in a first world country with a world class health care system.

Personal Sacrifice for the Sake of the Greater Good

For the sake of others. Act now. Pull back where you can. Withdraw where you can. Close where you can. Reduce exposure where you can. Cancel those flights. Postpone that conference. Conduct the meeting electronically. Work from home. Pay your staff to work from home where possible. Pay your domestic staff to stay at home.

For the sake of others. Act now. Pull back where you can. Withdraw where you can. Close where you can.

The Bible says there is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). There will be a time to limit travel, and then a time to be more conservative. Watch COVID-19 numbers. Listen to experts. Follow leadership. Do everything that you are able to do at the appropriate time. Now is the time to love your neighbour. Now is the time to make personal sacrifices for the national good. And a massive cheer to the many people, communities, companies, churches and health care facilities that are already doing this! Keep doing it! For the sake of others. NOW is the time.

Love your Neighbour

Please stop saying this is just the flu; you will be fine; it only affects the elderly and the immunocompromised. What if your child was immunocompromised, what if your spouse was at risk, what if we could save your parents’ life by immediate action?Act now, how you would want others to act on your behalf. For the sake of others. Love your neighbour.

Jesus was once asked the question “who is my neighbour?” Jesus’ reply was the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). At the end of the story Jesus asked a question: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” To which Jesus told him (and by implication us) “Go and do likewise.” How can we show and do mercy, which is an act of loving my neighbour in the midst of COVID-19?

How can we show and do mercy, which is an act of loving my neighbour in the midst of COVID-19?

If this becomes a full-blown epidemic, in our precious and fragile country, would the flight/trip/meeting/party have been worth it? Or rather – if we forgo that holiday, cancel that conference, conduct that meeting remotely, postpone that party – will we at least know that at least we did our best to protect and cover and hold?

For the Sake of What we Know

The World Health Organisation released the following statement on the 11 March 2020 at the COVID-19 media briefing:

“We cannot say this loudly enough or clearly enough or often enough. All countries can still change the course of this pandemic…

There are now more than 118000 cases in 114 countries (142,000 today as I write)… Thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospitals. In the days and weeks ahead we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths and the number of affected countries climb even higher.

WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.

We have never before seen a pandemic caused by a coronavirus. And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time.

We have never before seen a pandemic caused by a coronavirus. And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time.

WHO has been in full response mode since we were notified of the first cases. And we have called every country for urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear.”

Prayer for the Sake of Others

We have the incredible privilege of being able to approach our Almighty and Heavenly Father in prayer, our God who is fully able to act on the behalf of nations, our God who is able to put out His hand and hold this back! Now is the time to pray! Now is the time to love God, and to love your neighbour.

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.” (1 Timothy 2:1)

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5-7)

If by the mercy of God we pull together as a continent and manage to hold back this storm – as is my prayer – we will be the recipients of one of the greatest acts of earthly mercy that we could hope for, at such a time as this. Imagine Africa as a success story! Imagine Africa as the continent of safety from COVID-19! Imagine that. If we love our neighbour. If we act now.

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