One of the most memorable sermons I remembered was (I believe) from my friend Rev. Jack Lewis. He delivered the sermon as his senior sermon around the early part of December. The title was something like “The Body of Christ has AIDS.”
When the Body of Christ has a virus or an illness, the entire body has it. Viruses aren’t exactly like breaking a foot or straining a wrist – which still impacts other parts of the body to an extent. Rather, viruses impact the entire system.
Which is why I have to say this: Coronavirus is in the Body of Christ.
Paul gave us a magnificent illustration back in the first century CE. 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 states this:
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
When a virus attacks the body, we can’t isolate it from other parts of the body. When we have a stomach virus, we can’t remove our stomach from the rest of our body. When we had the chicken pox years ago, the entire body would suffer with the red, itchy spots. Viruses attacks the full system. “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.”
Likewise, when the Coronavirus entered the Body of Christ – just one person – it entered the full human body. It meant that the Body was going to have to work to rid itself of the disease – new ways of living and caring for one another – even in our isolation or if it’s impacting the world away from here. As it grows closer, even if it doesn’t impact us directly, we are still impacted by what is going on in our communities and world today.
We can’t spiritually isolate ourselves from what is going on by calling it a hoax, or that people of one party want this or caused this. This dangerous rhetoric needs to change. Coronavirus/COVID-19 is real. It’s impacting people in China who are part of our Body. It’s impacting people in Italy – also part of our Body. It’s impacting people in all corners of the world. It’s impacting poor people with less than the best insurance, notable people like Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. It’s impacting leaders and their spouses – like Sophie Trudeau. It’s impacting older people through illness and younger people through grief.
And it’s going to take ALL of us to “flatten the curve.” It will take all of us to change the way we are living to slow this virus to the point in which it is manageable for our medical professionals to treat.
If you say that this doesn’t impact you, then you forget about the child who has had an organ transplant or the person with COPD. If you decide to keep living life the exact same way you’ve been living, then you risk transmitting the virus to someone over the age of 60 or the person going through chemotherapy.
The Body of Christ is already impacted by this disease. And the Body of Christ will need a long period of healing even after it is “well.”
It will impact our economy.
It will impact the people we love.
It will impact our social connections.
It’s too late to expel it. The Coronavirus is now part of the body of Christ.
So now that it’s infected the communal Body of Christ/human body, what do we do?
First and foremost, we are required to realize that we are all connected. Each decision we make impacts everyone else – even the people who we have never met or the ones we pass by in stores and doctors offices.
Second, we share our resources of time, talent, and treasures when we can. We brainstorm and become creative when it comes to allowing people to work or finding pay for them. We design worship for streaming platforms. We share. We begin to trust God and love neighbor instead of hoarding for ourselves.
Third, we reach out to our neighbors as more and more events are being canceled. We may be physically social distancing, but we are not emotionally and spiritually social distancing. Canceling events may upset us, but it’s keeping someone else alive. Even in our grief, let’s reach out to someone else who is grieving the loss of socialization or who may be going through a deep patch of depression or anxiety. We give thanks for the many ways we can keep connected – from phone calls to emails, from FaceTime to hand-written notes.
Fourth, believe that this is real and advocate for/share love with those who are most vulnerable: people with weakened immune systems, people with lack of housing and food, people with depression and anxiety, people who are over 60, people who do not have adequate child care, and people without decent health care.
This extra effort is required because they are part of the same Body of Christ in which you are and I am. And this Body is infected.
The Body of Christ has the Coronavirus. Whether you are the foot or the hand or the stomach or the kidneys or the heart – you are affected.
We are a system. We are the Body of Christ. Let us heal together.