I have not written a great deal here since the Covid19 crisis really began to hit, back in March in the UK. To be honest, I have felt at times as though it has stolen my words, or perhaps they have drowned in the ocean of the words of those around me. Some have written much about what God is saying, and as I have declared before I don’t have a clue. Others have written about the new opportunities for mission this pandemic gives us, novel methods of being church and reaching others with the good news. I am sure that is true, since God is always finding new ways to reach his so-loved world, but for those trying to deal with the physical repercussions of this foul virus or stop others falling over a cliff of isolation, it may just be another route to a quicksand of exhaustion and felt inadequacy.
Today, aware of an inner feeling which was causing me disquiet for some time, I identified what it was, and it only served to make me more uncomfortable. Because the emotion, one I find profoundly unwelcome as a follower of the Lord of Love, is hatred.
You see, I hate this virus. I hate the way it has slunk its way across our world, an unseen pollutant sucking life and vitality from so many, leaving us helpless in its wake. I hate the way it has forced us to retreat behind our own walls, for safety yes, but at the cost of precious time with those we love. I hate the way it has exaggerated the differences between us and highlighted the plight of the poor and disadvantaged yet without many possibilities to put that right. I hate the necessary but toxic dance of social distancing when so many yearn for the simple comfort of being held. And to be ruthlessly honest and risk what are probably entirely accurate accusations of selfishness, I hate the fact that the final weeks in a role I love so much are to be robbed of so many of the things that are precious to me.
So now my task – and perhaps I am not alone – is a simple but difficult one. Now I have seen it, said it, owned it – what do I do with it to stop it tramping over all the good, within and without, which is still there despite all that these few months have held and the future will hold?
Jesus’ followers tend not to talk much about hate, and for good reason. Whilst we are told to ‘hate what is evil’, we are equally and rightly warned of the potentially deeply destructive power of hatred, spreading as silently as any virus and equally deadly both in our souls and across our communities. So yes, hatred is not always wrong, but like anger the challenge is to direct it to the right things, for the right reasons and with the right intensity. Only Jesus has ever managed that one, so I will definitely need his help.