Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15).
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23).
Do not judge so that you will not be judged. (Matthew 7:1)
It has been over a year now since we have found ourselves living in a pandemic: Masks, testing, quarantining, temperature checks, constant hand-washing, questionnaires, fear, hospitalizations, and death; isolation and separation, quiet holidays, canceled parties and vacations, remote learning and working, eating in, shipping and delivery headaches, long lines and scarce goods; derailed education and career plans, childcare challenges, job losses, and financial strain. But there is now hope on the horizon and the promise of a gradual but steady return to “normal.”
For some of us, post-pandemic life will be a time to celebrate and take joy in the simple pleasures we have missed, to re- connect with loved ones, to take that postponed vacation. For others of us, though, post-pandemic life will be a time to grieve losses of life, of financial stability, of opportunity, of health.
And then there is the transition itself. Some of us will seek vaccination as part of the process; others of us will not. Several writers have commented in recent weeks that life post-COVID will be significantly different than life pre-COVID. The way we define normal, our perspective about the future, and the way we negotiate this transition will be as unique as each of us. Some will embrace the return of freedoms and opportunities and blaze a trail toward their new normal. Others will remain cautious and tentative and move toward their new normal with some hesitation.
So as warm weather and gains against the pandemic bring relief from our long, cold, and depressing winter, it is nonetheless crucial that we remain committed to love others, within and without God’s family. To genuinely rejoice with those who are rejoicing; but also to weep with those who weep; and to look upon those traveling a different transition road with love and acceptance. I love the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to his Galatian readers to pursue the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
I know of no scholar who would claim that Paul’s list is exclusive and exhaustive, and while I am not an inspired writer of God’s Word, I would love to see sensitivity make the list. If we want to encourage others, we must cultivate an awareness that the person we are talking to in church or in line at the grocery store may have had a vastly different pandemic experience and a totally different approach to post-pandemic life than our own. It is relatively easy to comfort someone when we ourselves are grieving. And likewise, it is easier to celebrate with another when we ourselves are in a celebratory mood. It is much easier to relate to someone whose situation and perspective are similar to ours. But our Lord calls us to love beyond our comfort zone.
May we ask the abiding Holy Spirit to work in our hearts and mind that we might bear abundant fruit that will encourage and bless all those in our path.