Abiding in Christ in the Midst of COVID-19

By Dr. Sanejo Leonard

The past few weeks I have been meditating and practicing lectio divina on a familiar passage in Luke 13, the one where Jesus cries over Jerusalem in his desire to draw the city and its people back to himself. In reflecting upon that scripture, I was drawn to the start of the passage where Pharisees come to him and urge him to leave because Herod wants to kill him. Luke, ever the detailed writer, tips us off in dramatic fashion to the urgency in the narrative by writing “At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you [italics added]” (Lk. 13:31, NRSV).

Whether the Pharisees were trying to help Jesus, or this was a ploy to get him out of their city (probably the latter), the sense of urgency would cause any normal person to react: someone is trying to kill you, do something about it! Yet, Jesus was no “normal” person. While Jesus was both human and divine and struggled with many of the same human emotions we deal with, there was also a sense of calm deep within him, showing his ability to remain at peace despite the fear and anxiety that swirled around him (e.g., remember the story of Jesus asleep on the boat in the midst of the storm in Luke 8:23-25). Jesus’ frequent time spent with the Father in prayer (Lk. 5:16) seems to have contributed to his ability to respond to life’s challenges with a sense of calm rather than the temptation to react. Knee-jerk reactions often reflect ingrained habits, habits and parts of our character that have yet to be transformed into Christ’s likeness and Christ’s character.

Instead of reacting to the Pharisees and their attempt to cause fear, Jesus brings the focus back around to his mission and to others. It is from there that Jesus proceeds to express his sorrow over Jerusalem, desiring to gather her children together in a protective manner (Lk. 13:34), and as such, letting everyone know that his life was not his own; his life was meant to be lived and to die for others.

Jesus’ example shows us that our ability to weather our current storm of a global crisis is in our daily and frequent connection with God our loving Father, and the deep and abiding peace we will find from that relationship. As we grow in our ability to remain or abide in Jesus and his love, the fruit from that abiding will be our ability to love others (Jn. 15:5-12). The fruit will be our ability to respond from a well of peace rather than react from a shallow point of fear and anxiety. Our fruit will be responding with hope that only comes from a God who is bigger than our current crisis than a trust in human ability alone to fight this crisis. It is only when we learn to abide in Christ that our reactions change to thoughtful and peaceful responses because we are deeply rooted in Christ and his love (Eph. 3:17-18). Being the self-proclaimed “fraidy-cat” that I am, I need to remind myself of this practice as much as anyone.

May we this day, this week, and in this crisis learn to abide in Christ and find peace and calm there, and in turn, love and care for others to bring God’s light in the midst of this darkness.