Love Thy (Sick) Neighbor as Thyself

“Jesus demonstrated selfless and sacrificial love to us which we did not deserve or even want. When this same love flows from us it is evidence that Christ is at work in us.” –Pastor Tim Cochrell

Among other things, this morning in church Pastor Tim spoke about community. How “church is not just somewhere we go or something we do. It is who we are.” He talked about how brothers and sisters in Christ shouldn’t just come together on Sunday mornings to sing a few songs and listen to a message together, but that, like the believers of old, we should be doing life together (we are part of the same family after all); and how the way we relate to and interact with each other, the unconditional love we show for each other, should stand out to others – it should set us apart.

Now I’m going to sound like a bit of a crazy person – jumping from one topic to a seemingly unrelated one. But please bear with me – I do have a point.

My immune system hasn’t been that great for a very long time. I’m working on trying to improve it, but it’s taking a while. So basically, what that boils down to is I catch everything that comes down the pike. I was in bed for three days just last weekend with a fever and head/chest cold. Fortunately my cold is almost gone, but I’m still not quite back to 100%.

About 20 years ago, Kevin and I were horrendously sick with the flu for at least a week because someone came to a pre-Christmas gathering with the flu, bringing their sick kids (who also had the flu). So by the time Christmas Eve/Day rolled around they were all feeling much better, but Kevin and I were both so sick, our fevers went up so high, we felt like we were dying. This was important for me to mention because this was when my rather vehement opinion initially formed that it is the height of selfishness for someone to go someplace when they’re sick and expose everyone else to what they have. (Granted, I was pretty upset at the time, still, the opinion stuck.) So anyway, because of my weaker immune system, if I’m around sick people I inevitably get sick.

Fast-forward to this morning. Keep in mind I am JUST feeling better after being sick (to varying degrees) for a little over a week. As I’m listening to Pastor Tim preach, all around me people are coughing. But the worst one of all was literally sitting right in back of me. They coughed incessantly through the whole service. Listening to all the coughing all I could think about was how one of the reasons I stayed home last Sunday (heck, why I stay home whenever I’m sick) was so I wouldn’t expose anyone else to my germs. No matter how much I may want to go somewhere, I have simply never been able to reconcile loving others with disregarding their health for my own agenda.

So I’m sitting in church this morning, listening to the coughing, getting more and more irritated. But then Pastor Tim mentioned diversity in the body – how we all bring our own cultures, customs, and unique expressions of God to the proverbial table (I’m paraphrasing here, but that was the essence of the statement) and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, something just “clicked.” Just because I think something is right doesn’t necessarily make it so. (I know – I was surprised too!) 😉

Seriously though, we’re all different and come at things from different (not wrong – just different) directions. Staying home when I’m sick may be the way I need to express love, but maybe the loving thing for them, their sacrifice of praise to God, is to go to church no matter how awful they’re feeling. (Heck, maybe it’s a cultural difference.) Whatever their reasons, they chose to be there this morning, worshipping and soaking in the Word with the rest of our church family. And just like that my irritation melted, love took its place, and I was able to pray for them.

When all is said and done I know I’ll still stay home if I’m sick, but I know I can go to church without an attitude now, even knowing others may not do the same, because that’s the loving thing for me to do. Being there – being part of our church family – loving them regardless of what’s going on with them. Isn’t that what families do? As soon as I embraced that this morning there was nothing but peace.