A crisis brings out the best and worst in people. The legacy of COVID-19 has yet to be written, but we can be sure it will be more than simply new medical strategies for pandemics, new business strategies to survive recession, and new digital forms of ministry in churches. The legacy of COVID-19 will have a moral component as well.
COVID-19, like almost every crisis, brings the inequalities of society into sharp relief, Impoverished and minority communities almost always suffer more than others in such events. Whether we allow it to open our eyes to the inequalities in society or whether we choose to focus only on our own well-being may well be the greatest legacy left by COVID-19. And churches will go a long way in determining which path our society chooses.
I was challenged to open my eyes to inequalities by my friend Jeremy Floyd, Executive Director of 10 Thousand Windows, an organization dedicated to resettling victims of human trafficking. While I was concerned with the very real challenges in our community, Jeremy was primarily concerned with those who will be dragged back into slavery because the economic crisis will take away their ability to put food on the table. After my conversation with Jeremy, I did not become any less concerned about my local community, but I did become more concerned about our global community and I began to look with new eyes at how I could use my own resources to help on a local and global level.
So what can church leasers already overwhelmed by the needs of their local communities do to help their people become aware of the needs in other communities?
- First, show your people you understand their needs and minister to them. Until they know you are concerned about the pain and fear they feel, they won’t be overly concerned about your thoughts on injustice and oppression.
- While ministering to your people and meeting their needs, talk consistently about the needs of other communities and let your people know God has a role for them in blessing other communities affected by inequality.
- Help your people come to understand the systems and structures which perpetuate inequality and give them opportunities to work for change.
- Don’t act defensively or self-righteously when some inevitably question your ideas about inequality and the need for the church to actively work for justice. Assume the best of others. Continue to show your love and concern for them. And continue to give them opportunities to learn to see the world from a different perspective.
Jesus told his followers to be innocent as doves and wise as snakes. When it comes to working for justice, today, sometimes we have to be kind as can be and stubborn as a mule.