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Panic or Peace?

Splashed across every recent social media post and news screen is the odd combination of letters and numbers COVID-19. This hideous virus has changed our world in a matter of weeks. Instead of peace, there is panic. All of a sudden I can’t watch professional sports, go to a concert or, as of this weekend, go to my local church to gather with other human beings to worship; at least for the foreseeable future.

What Jesus Did, and Didn’t, Do

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is when a boat with Jesus in it is caught in an unexpected storm. Things get dire pretty quickly. Experienced sailors go from confidence, to concern, to panic, as the wind and waves threaten to capsize the floating faithful. In a last ditch effort to get saved (why is it always a last ditch effort?) a terrified young man shakes Jesus awake from a deep, deep sleep. 

I like what Jesus did and what He didn’t do. He didn’t panic. He measured the situation and stepped toward (in my imagination) the bow of the vessel, raised His pre-pierced hands and commanded, “Peace, be still!”

Jesus did what He could to bring peace to a seemingly out-of-control situation. And so should we. Christ’s followers, if they are known for nothing else, should be known as peacemakers. 

Today I was at our local grocery store and saw things I’ve never seen. Shelves of canned foods were sparse to empty. The toilet paper aisle was a ghost town because there was nothing there to put in my cart (thankful we didn’t need it). The lines were long and the faces were stressed. 

My local government and my local conference office are sending messages via social media and email. I’ve had dozens of texts, phone calls and emails from my church members asking about our worship service plans, committee meetings, and church board plans. Everybody is in a dither. 

“What Should I Be Doing?”

People everywhere are asking “What should I be doing?” 

Well, I suppose the standard answer to that question is, don’t shake hands, tap elbows instead. Self quarantine to help mitigate the spread of the virus. Wash your hands a lot. Disinfect all your surfaces and doorknobs. Or, go to Costco and buy all the toilet paper and bottled water that you can! Not so much that last one. These are some of the answers we’ve all heard and read to the question, “What should I be doing?” But maybe this is the wrong question. 

Did you notice that when Jesus was so rudely awakened by the frightened follower, He didn’t tell everybody what they should be doing? He didn’t put on a life jacket. Jesus didn’t start telling the disciples how to properly trim the sails or which way to turn the rudder. He didn’t even run to the store for toilet paper and bottled water. No, He just did everything He could to bring peace to the people who were panicking. And so should we. 

“What Can I Do?”

Maybe instead of asking, “What should I do?” we should ask, “What can I do?” What can I do to bring peace to fearful people? How can I serve to bring people in my community more peace and less anxiety?

In my church one of the things we are doing is offering to shop for folks that are immunocompromised. Another thing we are doing is reaching out to the local public elementary school to find out how we can serve the families in our community that will be negatively affected economically because they can’t do their hourly work. 

What can you do to bring peace to panic? 

Mark Witas writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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About Mark Witas

Mark Witas

writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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