If the COVID-19 pandemic highlights anything, it is that to be human is to be interdependent, finite, and dependent. This virus has thrown a tiny spanner into humanity’s project of self-procured immortality, independence, and self-reliance. John Donne’s adage, ‘no man is an island’, quickly fades into the past in this fast-paced, technologically advancing world. Large stores and supermarkets may supply the idea of self-sufficiency as one simply strolls in for self-priced products from anonymous farmers. The self-check-out options mean that one need not be acquainted with the supermarket attendant. All you need is your money. Or is it?
The Interdependence of Humanity
Genesis 1 reveals a great deal of interdependence within creation. The sun lights the way for man to walk and work as all the stars set seasons in sync (Genesis 1:14-19). The ground from which God made beasts is the one upon which they walk and find food (Genesis 1:24, 30). God makes humanity from mud, signifying its interdependence with land, plant, and beast (Genesis 2:4-9). Man himself will need woman as a suitable helpmate (Genesis 2:18).
This is an excellent time to witness, through our care for one another and our neighbours. The confidence we exude in these circumstances can reveal our hope in a God who transcends the Coronavirus
It is no wonder then that there are ripple effects of cancelling many events due to this pandemic. And like the waves from a stone thrown into a pond, the consequences reveal our co-dependency. Just think of the halt of the English Premier League, for example. Clubs still pay players despite low or no incoming revenue. Television sports brands like Sky Sports that rely on live games suffer as a result, as adverts drastically reduce. And who wants to subscribe to DSTV without sports? The result is that someone somewhere must be laid off to balance the books. But what happens to their families then?
Yesterday I spoke to a friend who is searching for a new job because she isn’t sure she will have one after this. Do you wonder how small economies will handle the after-effects? Me too!
No Man is an Island
The consequences of shutdowns are substantial for humanity precisely because ‘no man is an island’. What affects one affects all. As Martin Luther King Jr would insist, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” We cannot afford to care less about our neighbour. Notice also that we can take the prescribed self-quarantine measures for the love of our neighbour. This love for the other should extend to our shopping. The empty supermarket shelves in American stores that reveal panic-based spending also display less consideration for the one who steps in after I stroll out.
For Christians, this is an excellent time to witness, through our care for one another and our neighbours. The confidence we exude in these circumstances can reveal our hope in a God who transcends the Coronavirus. But it also may show a proper understanding of the Genesis creation narrative, as we maintain harmonious co-dependency. Each Christian will have to choose the avenues available to express this, in service of the person next door.
The Finitude of Humanity
The world partly panics because its dream of self-procured immortality and transcendence is checked. Suddenly the virus suggests what we have always suspected but feared to say: death ever closely stares at us. We, of course, have pretended that it lives far from us, that it still has a long journey to reach us. COVID-19 just threw a tiny spanner into these thoughts. And we don’t like it.
Our generation hates any sign of hopeless helplessness. We seek to conquer, to stretch every boundary and imagination. With spacecraft, the sky is no longer the limit. We have harnessed sound and light waves to our advantage and with them broken geographical barriers. Gravity cannot keep us down. But death does, six feet under ground. To the ground we each return, “for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).
We are finite in knowledge, unable to know everything, including what pandemic tomorrow holds
Hope Beyond the Grave
The Christian, of course, can communicate hope beyond the grave in times like these. Using our harnessed technology, we should tell the world that our help comes from the Lord, “who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). We do not hold that our finitude is the enemy. To the contrary, we embrace it as what it means to be human. We are finite in knowledge, unable to know everything, including what pandemic tomorrow holds. We are limited in resources, power, and health. Rather than place our hope in the total removal of these ‘weaknesses’, we boast in them (2 Corinthians 12:10).
In such times of uncertainty, we can only be sure of God’s constancy. And because God is unchangeably good and caring, we know that all things will work together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).
The Dependence of Humanity
The certainty of God’s constancy must call humanity to trust him alone. Genesis 1 reminds us that God made us. We are dependent on him. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The fast-paced world seeks to run from this, but like a small fish in an aquarium tank, it can only hurt itself trying to escape.
Dependence is a good thing. To be human is to depend on God.
Dependence is a good thing. To be human is to depend on God. Believers can model to the world what it means to not rely on our strength or wisdom in times like these. As we pray and engage, as we trust and rest, the Spirit of God shows himself sovereign over the world’s chaos. As the Spirit hovers over confusion, he creates calm and peace (Genesis 1:2). The virus will pass, but not before highlighting the fragility of our state. We do not run the world. We are here for a season, with a mandate to manifest God’s goodness. Our purpose is not living a long life, independence, or self-sufficiency. Like music, the sweetest melody comes from perfect harmonies as each instrument produces its sound in ideal measure.
We do not run the world. We are here for a season, with a mandate to manifest God’s goodness.
Loving God and our Neighbour
But as every musician may know, music must be performed as written by the composer. In the same way, a delightful destiny belongs only to those who depend on God. For he who made humanity also defeated death for us. The infinite became finite, the sovereignly free subject to limitations, so that in Him we may rise above every consequence of sin—Coronavirus included. In Christ, we are all ‘caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.’ Christians can demonstrate this truth by their love for God and neighbour in this season.