“HANDS TO THE P.L.O.W.” with Pastor Kelvin Sauls
“No one, having put their hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kin-dom of God.” – Luke 9:62.
The leap-year month of February plunged us into a global medical emergency as the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a public health pandemic of international concern. With over 162,000 people that tested positive around the world, the speed, severity, and scale of infections became a matter of exponential urgency.
The words of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus summed up the ensuing crisis as follows: “This is the time for science, not rumors. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma. The only way we will defeat this outbreak is for all countries to work together in a spirit of solidarity and cooperation. We are all in this together and we can only stop it together.”
With no person nor people, country nor community, immune from COVID-19, anxiety and uncertainty began to invade our collective psyche. With declarations from elected officials and public health departments, uncertainty and fear began to occupy our spirits.
This past weekend, the president of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaposa, took swift action and declared a national emergency around the coronavirus. Some faith leaders began to engage in proclamations of fictional predictions and Biblical prophecies. While the latter has its place, it sometimes seems to negate the consequential nature of human behavior.
Unsubstantiated and rushed prophecies, therefore, designate humankind as powerless in the face of monumental public health crisises of international concern – from polio, Ebola, SARS, H1N1 flu, Zika to the coronavirus. This is a perfect recipe for fear to become our master, ignorance our captain and paralysis our lieutenant.
With God as our refuge and strength, the words of Paul to his mentee, Timothy, can be instructive to our faith as we seek to reposition ourselves to leap into action with urgency, intentionality and collectively.
“God did not give us a spirit of fear. But, God gave us a spirit of power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:6). Courageous faith, accompanied by truthful facts and preventative acts, will enable us to dethrone fear, slay ignorance and topple paralysis.
COVID-19 has not rendered us powerless. Through unity and solidarity, we can leverage “people power” to walk and work together for the safety and protection of everyone, especially the vulnerable and marginalized. There is power in unity and progress in solidarity!
The spirit of power is propelled by agape love. Emanating from God, this love power elevates us into compassion, not discrimination. It boldly broadens our circle of concern towards hope, not hysteria. Informed by the spirit of love, power guides a sound mind into common sense behavior that benefits the common good throughout society.
Pursuing a courageous faith during these consequential times invites us to into prayer with opened eyes and outstretched arms to extend God’s blessed assurance to those who are anxious. Fervent prayer accompanied by faith-filled action has the potential of igniting resiliency and memory within people that they can overcome their sense of vulnerability with signs of victory. We are that sign because God wants to use us to help others to reduce worries, reposition anxiety, and redirect fears.
While COVID-19 has enveloped us with both crisis and danger, it also has the potential to leverage the power of love from within and among us into incipient and incredible moments filled with favorable and creative opportunities to turn the tide on this global medical emergency.
As I stand at the intersection of the coronavirus with family and friends in both South Africa and the United States, I am persuaded that with hearts and hands connected, feet and faith activated, we can reason together with sound minds and leap into precautionary adaptive behavior. Together, we shall overcome!
Pastor Kelvin Sauls is the former Senior Pastor of Holman UMC. A faith-rooted Community Organizer in the areas of social justice and racial equity, he currently serves as the network strategist with Community Health Councils and on the pastoral team at Peace Chapel Church in South Los Angeles. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.