Part 1 of this article outlined a Christian moral perspective that helps us to see how private individuals and institutions as well as public servants and governments are loving us in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. It explained that love and justice, two duties that form the core of the moral life for Christians and non-Christians, are intertwined such that love incorporates seeking justice, but it urged that love also calls us to go beyond justice. Part 2 built upon this perspective by sketching an analytical framework for thinking about health care and public health. Using this framework, it invited us to think from the bottom up, beginning with our particular loves for those in close relationships with us. In these close relationships, we love by ensuring that they are given what is due them, but we also love them in ways that go beyond what justice requires. It also encouraged us to move beyond love and justice in close relationships to loving and seeking justice more broadly.
Drawing upon what this perspective and analytical framework have helped us to see, Part 3 turns to some reflections on our response to this pandemic. This health emergency has caused many loved ones and neighbors (both near to us and far from us) to suffer. They are in need of both justice and our loving care, and we are rightly moved with compassion when we behold their faces and see their needs. Our concern and love for our neighbors should make us eager to respond.
We should love our neighbors through our compliance with government guidance and orders.
We should begin with a sense of gratitude, an attitude grounded in our faith in God’s goodness and upon our hope in His promises. At a time such as this, we should be grateful to God for His common grace in ordering our lives around our particular loves, instituting civil authorities as His ministers to maintain civil order and protect against wrongdoing, giving people gifts and talents, and maintaining the moral order so that we can know right and wrong and understand how to act justly and love in ways that go beyond justice. We should be grateful to those in our society who are loving us through the justice that they are executing and in other ways that go beyond the requirements of justice.
We are being loved by federal officials studying the crisis, giving guidance, and organizing efforts; by state executive officials assessing the unfolding needs and ordering closures, isolations, and distancing; by local health officers monitoring cases in our communities and deploying resources; by police officers enforcing closures and curfews; by public school employees distributing food; by health care workers treating the sick; by grocery store employees helping us obtain food items; and by truck drivers bringing necessary goods to our communities. We have so much for which to be thankful.
We should love our neighbors through our compliance with government guidance and orders. In the United States, we are fortunate to be blessed with several layers of civil government that love us by ensuring justice in our communities and our society, preventing wrongdoing, and punishing wrongdoers. We show respect to God for His gracious ordering of our lives when we respect the governing authorities and obey the laws they make and enforce. They are God’s ministers to do us good, and they do us good by ensuring the presence of justice.
We should also financially support churches and charitable institutions that are meeting the physical and spiritual needs of people in our communities and beyond—it is through our support of and participation in these ministries that we love neighbors in ways that go well beyond what justice requires. As state and local government orders permit, we should also support local businesses that serve our communities and employ our neighbors. And we should support those who are leading and serving through constant prayer.
In this time of pandemic, we must prepare ourselves to go.
We should prepare to love in ways that go beyond justice as the restrictions are eased or removed. We should prepare as individuals, families, churches and other groups in local communities, and organizations across many communities to love in ways that go beyond what justice requires and that go beyond our particular loves. Many are suffering, and many will continue to suffer, because of the loss of loved ones, their jobs, and their livelihoods. The Christian church was established to go with a message of God’s love in Christ and to show His love to our neighbors, both to those who are relationally close to us and to those who are more remote from us. Accordingly, in this time of pandemic, we must prepare ourselves to go.
Gilbert Meilaender, Neither Beast Nor God: The Dignity of the Human Person (2009).
Gene Outka, “Universal Love and Impartiality,” in The Love Commandments: Essays in Christian Ethics and Moral Philosophy (1992).
Nicholas Wolterstorff, “Love, Justice, and Law,” in Agape, Justice, and Law: How Might Christian Love Shape Law? (2017)
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