WWJD? COVID-19 edition

Halle Pratt

WWJD? A saying almost everyone has heard at some point in their life. WWJDDCN? An appropriate acronym for these trying times. What would Jesus do during COVID-19? 

   Before I began my research about what Jesus would do during these situations, I wanted to look further into how the saying began. I stumbled across a very interesting discovery that hit close to home. Literally. Janie Tinklenberg, a youth group leader at Calvary Reformed Church in Holland MI, began a movement to help students remember the question “What would Jesus do?” Tinklenberg created bracelets bearing the initials WWJD, which later spread worldwide among Christian youth. It’s fascinating that a worldwide movement began in our small hometown.

   Going into this article, I expected a clear answer. I thought that after talking to a few pastors at church, the answer would be very black and white. However, after presenting the question to Nate Dewitt, the youth pastor at Harderwyk Church, it was clear that there was a lot more to the question than I initially thought. 

   “I don’t think there’s a perfect black and white answer on this, I think it depends on the situation. I think it depends on the people and depends on the family” Dewitt said.

   Dewitt began by giving me a few Bible verses that very much fit the topics in today’s climate. 

 “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together and one of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question. Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the law?” Matthew 22 verses 34-40 The Sadducees and the Pharisees were “both the religious leaders and sort of the government leaders” Dewitt said.

   “So basically they’re trying to catch Jesus, trying to put him in a really sticky situation, and have him answer in either black or white, knowing that however he answers it, somebody is not going to be happy,” Dewitt said, comparing the verse to today’s issue with masks. No matter what the solution is, there will more often than not be someone who is upset.

   Although the Sadducees and the Pharisees were trying to push Jesus into a predicament, he replied “… love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself, all the laws and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”

It’s interesting that they used the word “law” in the verse, considering it ties in with today’s laws of wearing masks and social distancing in order to protect one another.

   We always look at the pandemic through our perspectives, but rarely through Jesus’ perspective. Many people get so caught up in the bustle of the pandemic, that they forget to take a look at the big picture. “I just picture Jesus stepping back and being like “guys, what are we doing here?” Is it about wearing the mask or is it about loving God and loving your neighbor?” Dewitt said. People need to start looking at the situation as, “am I loving others by what I’m doing and how I’m acting during this situation?” 

   During the holiday season, many families are struggling to decide whether or not they should visit their loved ones to celebrate Christmas. Some families believe they must be present with all their family members to show them love. Others believe that getting together is putting their family members in danger. 

   “There are situations where people are going to need you showing them love by being present with them, and there are certain situations where you are showing more love to someone by not being present with them,” Dewitt said. Although it might sound absurd, not being present with your loved ones may be showing them more love than getting everyone together. Families need to decide how they will continue to share holiday cheer in a way that keeps everyone safe. Although these times are confusing, people need to continue to have discernment. Picture Jesus having to make this decision. He would decide based on the big picture: whether he would show more love to his friends by visiting them, or postponing the visit until the number of cases go down. The point is not about masks or family gatherings, “the point is how do we show love to these people in the way they need to be shown love to.” Dewitt said.

   From a youth ministry’s point of view, Harderwyk Church still continues to hold youth group on Monday nights in the safest way possible. If Harderwyk wanted to, they could shut everything down. That would be the easy way out. However, they continue to show love to others but in a safe and healthy way. 

   When it comes to the specific black and white of all of this, it’s not black and white. The mindset and the framework needs to be “am I loving this person by how I’m handling myself right now?” What would Jesus do? Jesus would focus on the big picture, so why don’t we? Things will get better, but even in the midst of everything, we can still love one another in a way that will keep everyone safe. 

   “How do I live as lovingly as I can for other people? If you are truly loving your God, the neighbor stuff will fall into place. We’re not going to be perfect at it all the time, but at least it’s going to give you a pretty good foundation,” Dewitt said.