Bringing Out the Best in All of Us
by George Garrison
Posted: April 24, 2020
In it together now, but?…
George Garrison is senior pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Warrenville, Illinois. He began writing "Thursday Thoughts" during the COVID-19 pandemic, when so much of the church's activities had to go virtual.
Photo: While its worship service and many other activities have gone virtual, the food pantry at Immanuel continues, serving a growing number of people during this time of need—with appropriate adjustments for the safety of volunteers and guests (photos by Dee Netzel)
It has been wonderful to see all the ways that people have come together to help us through the COVID-19 pandemic. The media makes it a point (and rightfully so) to provide stories that testify to the “power of the human spirit” and encourage all of us to do our part, even if for most of us our part is staying home. The challenging circumstances that have greatly impacted our lives in the last few weeks have caused many to comment that our society “will never be the same” once the pandemic subsides. But while we can all rejoice in the very positive potential for change (the proper priority of relationships, family, community, etc.), I’m not very hopeful that we will come out on the other side of COVID with any lasting impact. There are two main reasons for my skepticism.
The first has to do with the nuances of “the power of the human spirit.” Yes, it is greatly encouraging to see the selfless sacrifices of many, but we have also seen recently how the human spirit can be selfish as well as selfless. While no one wants to minimize the economic effect shelter-in-place has on the well being of our citizens, the fact that many can only see it as a hindrance to their own personal freedom is unsettling. Protests based solely on the outrage against individual’s rights in recent days reveal that while the human spirit has the capacity to serve others while disregarding the self; the human spirit also has the capacity to elevate oneself at the expense of others.
The second reason for my skepticism is based on experience. In the summer of 1992, Susan and I experienced the wrath of Hurricane Andrew as we rode out that horrific storm in her family’s house in Miami, Florida. It was terrifying. The word devastation suddenly become an integral part of everyone’s vocabulary. But we were amazed in the wake of that storm how we saw immediate change in our community.
Neighbors who seldom conversed beyond the obligatory “hi” were now fully engaged. Everyone pitched in to clear each other’s yards, helping not only with physical labor but with advise for anything from how to deal with their insurance adjustor to where one could get their hands on a generator. Many commented how the community “would be permanently changed for the better.” But it wasn’t. Yes, there were many months and even a couple of years where things were different from before, but as homes were eventually remodeled and the vegetation grew back in everyone’s yards and fences were rebuilt, the same social fences were eventually re-built as well.
While we can all be thankful for the positive ways we are seeing our society come together, we should be mindful that as followers of Christ our hope and conviction is that the difficulties and hardships we experience will not ultimately reveal the “power of the human spirit,” but the very power of God. As I mentioned , Paul’s statement in 2 Cor. 4 that we have “this treasure in jars of clay,” is ultimately to “show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not us.” Paul also stated eight chapters later in that same epistle that Jesus directly said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Unfortunately, many will view us getting through this pandemic as a testimony to the power of the human spirit and not the grace of God. It is very possible that pandemic survival will foster an even greater widespread belief in the self-sufficiency of humankind. But let’s pray that many will see it much differently.
Let’s pray that the days ahead will be an opportunity for our own weaknesses and limitations to showcase both the grace and power of God. After all, it is the realization of our lack of self-sufficiency that provides fertile soil for the power of the gospel. May we pray that our world will see in us believers and in all of us both the limitations of our power and strength and the all-sufficiency of Christ’s. Only then will we truly see the best in all of us.
Praying for a profound sense of the sufficiency and supremacy of Christ in us,
© 2020 George A. Garrison
George Garrison is Senior Pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Warrenville, Illinois.• E-mail the author (ten.nairetybserpleunammi@egroeg*) • Author's website (personal or primary**)
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