Romans 12 – Remembering the Corona Virus Whistleblower

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Read the rest of the chapter, here.)

Dr. Li Wenlaing, 34-year old doctor in Wuhan, China, died last week after contracting the corona virus.  Back in December, he had warned colleagues about it, after which he was forced by Wuhan officials to sign an official statement renouncing his warnings as lies and rumor-spreading.

The Wall Street Journal reports Dr. Li as wanting to continue to help, no matter what. “The outbreak is still spreading,” the article reports him writing on his verified account on Tencent News. “I don’t want to be a deserter.” His mother confirmed his commitment to his patients and public health in this NY Post article, both seeing it as his duty as a doctor.

I think Paul would agree with me that Dr. Li filled all of the obligations which Paul puts forth in this chapter.  You see, this bit of Paul’s writing is, according to all the sources I’ve read, a very politically radical statement.  Caesar declared himself head of the state, so in saying that Christ is the head of the church (with all belonging making up the body), puts Christ forth as a rival to Caesar.  Add in that little sentence about “do not conform to the world” and this becomes a very subversive message in the eyes of Roman authority.

But accusations of political subversion didn’t deter Paul, the message of Jesus Christ was too important.  Accusations of rumor-spreading didn’t deter Dr. Li, trying to save people from the corona virus by spreading the message was also too important.  And, just as Paul urges us to do, Dr. Li used his own specific gifts – in his case, healing – to keep serving his community for as long as he could.  Yes, I believe that Dr. Li will be one of God’s special saints.

I don’t believe God calls us all to martyrdom. A large minority of early Christians actually sought out dying in Jesus’ name in order to cement their place in heaven (remember the Crusades?), perhaps rising with the saints, who Paul says will be raised sooner than the rest of us hoi polloi believers.  Saint Francis, now remembered as basically the friar version of Snow White, set his sights on converting a Sultan or dying in the process.  He was so fervent the Sultan basically was like, “no thanks, but if you believe in your god that strongly here’s safe passage through my land just get this crazy out of my court.” But I digress.

We don’t need to die for God, but we should devote ourselves readily to service.  That is, I believe, what Paul means by a living sacrifice, and why he goes on at length about using our gifts in service to the world.  As an aside, I wrote two posts last year about the wonderful gifts God has given us (and how to use them) and also assessing your spiritual gifts, if you are at a loss to how you might play a role in serving the world.  Please don’t let martyrdom scare you off from service, or make you think that what you are doing isn’t good enough.  The important part of the equation is service. Death of a generous spirit, when it happens, is a tragedy.  Dr. Li is a shining example of this.  I pray that we open our ears and our hearts to the message of the whistle-blowers, who call our attention to impending crises and ongoing injustices.  I pray especially that those in power may not be hard of heart towards those messages.  Let us remember Dr. Li with the saints, and may his death not be in vain.

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Romans 05 – Gifts of the World

15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! (Read the rest of the chapter here!)

God’s abundant earthly gifts to us

Gifts. Spiritual gifts of hope, reconciliation, and grace.  These beautiful gifts are what Paul is talking about in this chapter.  It got me to thinking how God gives so abundantly in so many ways, not just spiritually, but physically, too.  Which makes our inability to share that much more heartbreaking.  To illustrate just how abundant God is, and how recklessly we waste Xyr gifts, consider these statistics:

Food Waste and Feeding the Hungry: I think I’ve mentioned this statistic before, but if not, definitely go check out Amanda Littletrip’s book The Fate of Food, which has an illuminating chapter on food waste.  It is estimated that the food waste in this country is somewhere between 162 – 218 BILLION dollars worth of food.  That includes the stuff that rots in the fields, gets thrown out from grocery stores and restaurants, and dumped from our own refrigerators.  Just one third of that wasted food would be enough to feed the 40 MILLION food insecure individuals in the US.  We make so much food in this country that we could feed all the hungry three times over with our excess.  Why aren’t we doing that?

Land mass, homelessness, and immigrants: This statistic isn’t as practical, but it’s more to illustrate a point.  If you gave every single individual in the US an equal amount of land in the contingent 48 states, each person – not family, but person – would get six acres.  To reiterate, this isn’t a practical statistic. If we actually went through with this it would leave no room for roads, hospitals, libraries, or grocery stores (not to mention Starbucks or Targets).  But, considering how many houses are built on quarter-acre lots, or how many multi-family housing units exist, we have enough room to house everyone who wants to be here while still making room for smart agriculture, green spaces, and business.

The Solution to Climate Change: Alright, it’s not that simple, but I want to illustrate how God has provided solutions to problems we make ourselves, and trees are the perfect example.  Depending upon how you calculate it, (there’s a great article here with a bunch of different statistics) a mature tree can sequester 48 pounds of carbon dioxide while producing enough oxygen for two people.  Additionally, a mature tree has 10-30 acres of leaf surface area. When waving in the breeze, these leaves act like a broom, picking up impurities such as dirt, soot, or exhaust.  Trees also seed clouds, provide food and habitat for wild animals and ourselves, and prevent soil erosion and flooding.  Trees are literally a solution to problems of our own making with extra gifts thrown in.  And that’s just trees – I haven’t even touched upon the carbon sequestering abilities of grasses or the oxygen-producing capabilities of sea plants.

I also haven’t touched upon the therapeutic possibilities of stem cells (even with some ethical questions they still show great promise), the nearly unlimited source of energy God has given us in the sun, and the vast amount of money that could be redistributed to alleviate poverty (again not a practical statistic, just illustrative: if the 10 richest Americans donated their net worth, each of the 38.1 million individuals below the poverty line would get over $12,000).  God has given us abundant gifts. Why aren’t we sharing them with each other?

We need to start sharing

We all feel put upon in some way.  I always have too much month at the end of my money. I never have enough time or energy after the kids are dealt with.  But I’m finding small ways to make it work anyway.  I take ten minutes out of my week to call my representatives.  As discussed in my last blog post, I literally raid my change stashes so I can donate to causes I believe in.  I make the effort to buy second-hand first because it is more ecologically sound: with online thrift stores this is easier and easier.  I try to double up on errands while I’m out so I’m not burning gas needlessly.  I’m not telling you this to brag, I’m telling you this to illustrate that we all can do a little better, this mindset of consideration and service is one that needs constant cultivation.  I still have a long way to go: I use way more single use plastic than I’d like. It has been years – decades, maybe – since I’ve donated my time to a soup kitchen, clean-up crew, or similar activity.  I don’t volunteer at the polls, the PTO, or church.  But I’m trying in the ways that I can for now.  And so can you.

Most importantly, we can demand change from our communities.  Fostering a mindset of consideration and service in ourselves is important, but we want to change society as a whole.  Here are some ideas as to how to do that (and I’d love if you add yours in the comments!): Attach your monthly book club to a cause – bonus points if you take a collection for a nonprofit or use your meeting time to occasionally volunteer.  Suggest outreach activities at your church – especially if you have the time and talent to spearhead such an endeavor.  Support businesses that have an ethos you can get behind, and stay away from those with practices you dislike.  Finally, I can’t say this enough – talk to your representatives.  Attend public hearings, and speak up!  Call those congressmen and senators! Let them know your thoughts and that you are voting your conscious.

God has given us so, so much.  The world is filled with the potential for healing, with beauty, resources for our every need.  Even under all the abuse the Earth suffers, God’s gifts flow seemingly unending from it.  The problem is, those gifts are hoarded by the greedy few.  I truly believe the bounty of the Earth and the Spirit has no bounds.  But in order to receive abundantly, we first have to give abundantly.  It’s up to us to find out how much more blessed we could be if we took care of the Earth, and took care of each other.  God has given us the resources to make it so. We are the only things standing in our way.

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