During the onset of a crisis, the challenges we face often unite us. But the longer a crisis continues to be a part of our reality, we become more and more tempted to be divisive and confrontational with each other.
And that’s probably because crises create situations where leaders are making difficult decisions amid complicated circumstances. And we all have our opinions about those decisions that we feel the need to voice.
This current COVID-19 crisis is no different.
When the novel coronavirus first became classified as a global pandemic, the overriding message was one of hope and unity. We spoke often about how “we’re all in this together,” even rallying around hashtags like #TogetherAlone.
But the longer we’re forced to live with the limitations that come with fighting the spread of COVID-19, the more agitated we seem to become. The more suspicious we become. The more opinions we begin to form about how our leaders should be responding.
Times are certainly tense. But with that being said, the Church has a wonderful opportunity to show the world what a difference Jesus can make. When the world is divided, unity among believers sends a powerful message. Jesus even tells us that our unity will be a sign of our faith.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
So for the sake of the good news of Jesus, we need to be very concerned with conveying love, empathy, and unity during a crisis like COVID-19.
Here are 4 ways we can create unity during a time of crisis.
1. Prioritize helping others over seeking your own comfort.
At the center of any divisive conversation is typically a self-centered motive. It’s a conversation about how my rights are being encroached upon. We tend to think about and talk (in all caps) about how a situation is not fair to us.
And that might be true. There are many aspects of life that tend not to be fair, especially during a time of crisis.
- It’s not fair that you’re perfectly healthy but have been forced into isolation.
- It’s not fair that you lost your job and haven’t received unemployment assistance.
- It’s not fair that you haven’t been able to see your extended family.
- It’s not fair that you have to wear a mask in order to buy groceries.
- It’s not fair that you got sick.
None of this is fair. But it’s important to remember that we’re all feeling it.
And what’s even more important to remember is our call to serve others, even when it doesn’t seem fair to us. We need to be willing to seek the good of others before we worry about how we are or aren’t being treated fairly.
This is so hard. But if we seek the good of others even over our own good, we create an incredible sense of unity. Because when you’re more concerned with other people than you are with yourself, it’s contagious. And unfortunately, so is selfishness.
So choose wisely about the attitude you want to spread. Make sure it’s one of unity. And if we do that, what we’ll begin to realize is that we’re able to take care of each other as we look to Jesus to care for us.
2. Choose to assume the best of other people, rather than the worst.
When times are tough, it’s so easy to think the worst of other people. We come up with the worst possible motive for their actions, and we take everything they do as a personal affront.
During this global pandemic, all of us have fallen prey to thinking the worst of others. We do it with our family members that have begun to get on our nerves after constantly being in close quarters for months on end. And we do it with our local, state, and national leaders when they make decisions we disagree with.
It takes discipline to choose to assume the best about someone else’s motives. It doesn’t come naturally, because we all look at the world from our own point of view. We’re all telling our own story, crafting our own narrative about the world based on the angle we’re looking at it.
That’s why I think it’s important to remember that no one sees themselves as the villain of their own story. And unless someone is a complete sociopath, they’re probably genuinely trying to do what they believe is best. We might not agree with them, and we might not think they’re doing a good job. But that’s no reason to assume the worst about their intentions or the state of their soul.
When we choose to identify with others, we’re able to rally around them, imperfect as they are, and work together toward a better tomorrow.
3. Resist the urge to politicize the crisis.
Speaking of thinking the worst of others, one of the worst things we can do is to politicize a crisis like COVID-19 around partisan lines. And unfortunately, we have seen this happen far too often, even among followers of Jesus.
Depending on a person’s political affiliation, you can pretty easily predict the talking points that will naturally emerge from a conversation about COVID-19. And that’s so tragic. Because talking points don’t change the world. The love of Jesus expressing itself in unity does.
When we divide ourselves by our political affiliation and assume the worst of those not in our “camp,” we settle for such a small vision of what the Church can really be. The amazing thing about followers of Jesus is that they don’t need to have anything in common with each other in order to be completely on each other’s team.
When we see partisan political views as a marker of maturity, as authenticity of faith, or as a requirement for being unified with someone, we fall woefully short of understanding what Jesus came and gave his life to accomplish.
4. Focus less on changing people’s minds and more on loving them where they are.
In the age of social media, any number of widely broadcasted differences of opinion are available to engage with on a daily basis. The theories about the origins of the crisis and how to deal with it are wide ranging and freewheeling. And most of us can’t help but at least observe the online train wrecks that unfold before our eyes.
And, needless to say, there’s quite a bit of misinformation that gets spread around. So it can be really tempting to want to jump in and correct certain people. I know I’ve certainly felt that way.
The other week, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I came across a friend’s post, where they had shared a video that (at least from my perspective) outlined one of the craziest conspiracy theories about COVID-19 that I’ve seen to date.
After viewing the video, I immediately began looking for a gif of someone wearing a tin-foil hat to post in the comment section. But then I stopped myself. Posting that comment wouldn’t help anything. In fact, even posting a lengthy and well-reasoned reply probably wouldn’t either. I wasn’t going to change their mind, and I would only encourage more conflict. So I deleted my comment draft, and kept scrolling.
I’d encourage you to do the same. Unless you’re encouraging or uplifting someone, it might be best not to comment. And if you feel that concerned about the other person’s post, call them up and talk to them person-to-person.
But most of the time, it’s far better to simply love people where they are than to try and change their mind. And just because you profoundly disagree with something they posted online, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still have a good relationship with them.
The best way to get through a crisis is together.
At the end of the day, all that matters in this world is people. People matter more than being right. More than having rights. People matter more than getting what you want.
In a time where emotions are running high, we tend to forget that. So I invite you to remember. Remember the love that Jesus has freely given to you, and then freely give it to others.
And if you do that, our differences won’t seem to matter as much. We will be able to connect with one another, lift one another up, and show the world that the power of Jesus is real. It’s real in its ability to transform our individual hearts. And it’s real in its ability to transform a people and make them of one heart and soul.