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  • Bryan T. Hixson

The Antidote of Loving Your Neighbor

There are moments in life when God is present, and yet circumstances and situations may prevent that clarity for us. I am certain that today is one of those for many experiencing the impacts of Covid-19 or any number of other challenges. Whether the brunt of that experience is felt through isolation, uncertainty, fear, concern, or something else, we can be sure that we are not alone in our feelings. The pandemic is global, and thus the impacts are likewise global.

Galatians 5:13-14 is a good reminder of our responsibility as Christians.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Service and loving your neighbor is not the cure to Covid-19, but it is an antidote to emotions like loneliness, fear, and concern. Loving your neighbor is an antidote to behaviors like hoarding while our elderly neighbors find themselves in front of empty shelves at the grocery store. A spirit of service is the antidote to holding too tightly to that extra box of face masks or gloves while those trying to serve in hospitals and clinics do without. While service and loving your neighbor can’t contain Covid-19, they can positively impact people today and well beyond Covid-19.

If we can be any part of an antidote to a challenge or struggle, why wouldn’t we? We who call ourselves Christian are commanded to this behavior. Call your neighbor and check on them. Email your church’s missionary and let them know you are praying for them or ask what you can send them. Write a note to someone in a nursing home. Provide a meal to the homeless. Be creative and find ways to love your neighbor. Remember, you are not alone in your feelings, and lifting others will also lift you.

I was reminded of the beauty of this reality through Kent and Amber Brantly, who just six years ago found themselves serving in the middle of an Ebola outbreak in West Africa. (See the documentary Facing Darkness.) While serving some of the world’s most vulnerable, Dr. Brantly contracted this deadly virus. Left untreated - 80-90% die from Ebola. Approximately ½ of those who have contracted Ebola have died. Despite the risk, Dr. Brantly, his family, and colleagues put Galatians 5 into practice demonstrating selfless service and willing sacrifice. Juxtapose this sacrifice to a mad dash for toilet paper and Cambell’s Soup. Not pretty!

Thankfully, we have among us many like Kent and Amber, who are serving in clinics and hospitals so that Covid-19 might be contained and lives saved. Amid storms, some look beyond self, and they sacrifice in service. Some continue to return to the battle regardless of risk or sacrifice, and they are those we should seek to emulate. While it is hard to compare the horrors of Ebola to the global reach of Covid-19, Dr. Brantly and his family are once again serving and loving their neighbors abroad. May their courage and example serve to encourage and inspire us to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Yesterday, Dr. Brantly and his family began a new work in a nation with a fraction of the resources of the United States and the potential for greater challenge than we are currently experiencing. Most would have said that surviving Ebola is enough - my service is done. Instead, Dr. Brantly turned his eyes to neighbors again. Kent and Amber, like many others, exemplify salt and light, as reflected in Matthew chapter 5. May we likewise find ways to be salt and light and serve in our little corner of a frightened planet. May this global pandemic help us to discover what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16

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