The latest announcement about the further easing of Covid-19 restrictions is wonderful news. Coming just weeks before the one-year anniversary of last year’s Circuit Breaker, it’s a welcome indication that slowly but surely, life is getting back to normal.
I can still remember how, almost one year ago, life came to a virtual standstill as shops, restaurants, and many businesses were told to close for 2 months to prevent the further spread of Covid-19. For Christians, we faced an extra big blow when all church services and meetings were stopped.
Thankfully, we’ve been able to resume many of our routines, albeit with measures such as mask-wearing, Safe Entry, and restrictions on group sizes. With the latest news on more workers being allowed to go back to office and larger group sizes at events, it does seem that things have changed for the better.
But is the good news all good?
I do wonder if, with part of life getting back to normal, we’ve also begun to relax on some good practices formed in the early days of the crisis—not just our hygiene precautions, but also the way we cared for the needy and vulnerable around us.
When churches were closed and the Circuit Breaker started, many of us went into “battle mode”. We went all out to care for those who were hit badly by the lockdown, such as elderly neighbours who didn’t know how to order groceries online, older relatives who were lonely at home because their families couldn’t visit, and needy families affected by study and work-from-home arrangements.
Many of us made special, intentional efforts to help them. Some of us called them regularly to check on them, some of us bought groceries for them or helped them with errands, while others got food and gifts delivered to their homes to cheer them up.
Now that things have improved, I wonder: How many of us have stopped doing these things?
I know I have. During the Circuit Breaker, I tried to call older relatives and church friends regularly, even keeping track of whom I called. I dropped by an elderly neighbour occasionally to see if she needed help with groceries.
I’ve stopped doing all this for many months now; I can’t even find that list of people I was calling.
Understandably, the easing of restrictions mean that many elderly people can go out again and families can visit. Yet, we know that many people are still hurting in this pandemic—perhaps even more, because of the widespread retrenchments and economic downturn.
And so I ask myself: Am I caring less for others now? Have I become complacent in loving my neighbour, and getting caught up once again with the routines and stresses of daily life?
If I were to be honest with myself, then I’ll have to say: Yes. Guilty as charged.
The Dangers of Complacency
Complacency was certainly a hallmark of the Israelites’ lifestyle after they settled into the promised land.
When they were wandering in the desert after escaping Egypt, they were in survival mode. They depended on God daily and probably looked out for each other (although they did stumble in their faith many times). Then, when they entered Canaan, they went into battle mode. Again, close dependence on God characterised their walk with Him, as did closeness in the community. After all, in the desert and in battle, they had only each other.
But once they settled into their new homes and began to resume a normal life, they began to forget their dependence on God and on each other. As the end of the book of Judges shows, idolatry, infighting, and civil strife replaced the faithfulness we saw in Joshua’s time.
No wonder God, knowing the tendency of the human heart to stray, warned them through Moses: “When you have had children and children’s children, and become complacent in the land, if you act corruptly by making an idol in the form of anything, thus doing what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, and provoking him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to occupy; you will not live long on it, but will be utterly destroyed” (Deuteronomy 4:25–26 NRSV).
The Israelites’ complacency may seem a bit extreme when compared with our own context; you might reasonably say that we are not straying away from God just because Covid-19 restrictions are being eased.
But I believe it would be fair to say that it can be easy to lose our focus on God and forget His calling to love Him and to love others when we’re caught up in the busyness of life.
As we return to our daily routines, may we continue to give the highest priority to God and the people He loves—our neighbour, the needy, the vulnerable. Amid the good news of Covid-19 restrictions being eased, may we never forget the commandments of the Lord that come with the receiving of the Good News: to “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”, and to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39).
Lord, forgive me
if I’ve got caught up in the routines of life
and forgotten to keep caring for the people You love.
Give me the compassion and the passion
to reach out to and help the needy around me.