6 weeks into this surreal experience, it’s safe to say that nerves are wearing thin for many of us. At first it seemed we were united by fear of the unknown, but the longer things have gone on and the more sides were taken, the greater the divide grew. Add in the change of lifestyle, being locked in without our usual outlets and without the social connection we so desperately need, and it’s no wonder that we’ve all gotten to be a bit on edge. The online community groups in my area started out with so much support and good will… suffice it to say, that’s not quite the case anymore. We’re all feeling the strain.

For this reason, it’s a great time to remember to give each other a little bit of grace. The longer this goes on, the more confusing it gets. There is much to consider on every level, and any time that’s the case there is going to be disagreement. The science is tough to discern, the implications are widespread and affect different people in different ways, and both of these things make it difficult to know how a Christian should act.

The statistics, models, and recommendations have all become a blur at this point. The experts’ understanding has changed quite a bit as the situation has developed, and different approaches are yielding different results. None of us can say for certain what is the exact right way to handle things. The question is whether we can concede that this is a complex situation. If we can do that, we can see why people would perceive things differently.

Beyond the scientific aspect is the very real matter of competing concerns. If you have an elderly or immunocompromised loved one, your first concern is probably halting the spread of the virus. Nobody wants to lose a loved one, and nobody wants to see New York City’s tragic numbers repeated anywhere. On the other hand, if you have a family to feed and your job is in jeopardy, your first concern is probably finding a way to restart the economy. Add in the uncertainty of what this will mean for economic basics like food production and healthcare and their concern can surely be understood as well. Neither side is wrong in their desires. Will we give each other room to disagree?

Most importantly, it’s tough to parse out what it actually means to love one another. Many who advocate for an extended quarantine do so out of love for others. On the other hand, many who advocated for a return to business also do so out of love for others. Should we continue to self-quarantine even as restrictions begin to lift in some states? Some say yes, that’s the loving thing to do. Or, should we join in the return to business? Some say that is the loving thing to do. Both sides have valid arguments and good intentions for their favor. How then do we consider others as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3) when the way to do so isn’t clear?

Whatever loving one another and considering one another means at this point, it definitely includes these three elements. First, it has to include not being condescending toward people for seeing things differently. The level of condescension permeating social media right now is severely off-putting, and Christians should have no part in it. Second, loving one another must also include empathy for their concerns. There are different reasons people have taken up for the sides they represent, but the reason is never “Because they’re dumb.” As discussed above, the motivations on both sides are understandable and it’s our job to love one another enough to care about the other person’s perspective. Third, love includes exercising the Golden Rule. When people get irritable, it’s important to remember that everyone is going through a lot right now. When I have a bad day, I want people to be empathetic if I’m grumpy. Love means extending that same grace to them that I would want extended to me (Matthew 7:12).

So, when someone posts something I disagree with, I should either move on or share my thoughts politely and be willing to hear out their responses. If a congregation decides to resume meeting (or never stopped in the first place), I shouldn’t look down on them as anti-science or unconcerned about health. I should assume the best, that they’re doing so because they want to serve God. If another congregation decides to hold off for the foreseeable future, I shouldn’t look at them as being unfaithful or “forsaking the assembly.” Once again I should assume the best, that they’ve made their choice out of concern for each member’s well-being. We may very well think another person is as wrong as could be. If we are going to say someone else is wrong about this, though, may we at least grant them the dignity of assuming they are sincere in their wrongness. We have to give each other grace with the understanding that I and those who agree with me are not the only ones who can have genuinely good motives.

I haven’t been great about this myself. I hold an opinion just like everybody else, and it’s easy to get swept up in the frustration when there’s so much at stake right now. Being a Jesus follower means making peace, though (Matthew 5:9). It means trying to understand the other person and realizing they might need the same kind of grace we do on our bad days. That puts the question before us as we engage others – does the world need another voice advocating an opinion, or does it need a peacemaker? May we choose our battles wisely and shed a little grace along the way.