Opinion: Good Friday, faith and the COVID-19 pandemic
A dark cloud hangs over this year’s Good Friday celebrations as thick and menacing as the darkness that hovered over the hill of Calvary on that distant day in history.
Normally, I, along with countless other pastors, would be preparing to lead our people in services commemorating the seven last words Jesus spoke from his cross.
This year, however, the coronavirus pandemic has interrupted our church schedules, those of every institution in America and many across the world.
The downward spiral of the stock market and the unparalleled job losses have shaken our confidence in the economy, which for many people is the foundation of their faith.
And, most intimidating of all, many states including Michigan have implemented stay-at-home orders that restrict our freedom to assemble as we please freedoms we cherish in our democracy.
COVID-19 has disrupted our lives and shown us just how fragile human life and our nation really are. It has also clearly exposed the social and racial inequities of our society. While the virus has impacted people from every race and class, African Americans have disproportionately been affected. In Michigan, African Americans make up 40% of the COVID-19 related deaths. We make up just 14% of the state. This trend extends beyond Michigan and is a racial justice issue nationally.
As terrifying and unsettling as this virus is, our Good Friday faith reminds us that life has meaning and life will outlast the darkest and most troubling experiences of our existence.
In our Christian tradition, we believe that Jesus Christ died on that cross that “we might have life.”
As much as the threat and reality of death is all around us, this virus should cause us to find meaning for ourselves by doing those things that promote life.
The hope of eternal life beyond death was born out of the death of Jesus. Every Good Friday we celebrate not just the death of Jesus, but his life and the meaning he has given to our lives.
This pandemic also exposes the virus of hate and division, especially against our Asian-American brothers and sisters, a sin which has systematically infected our society for generations. We now have an opportunity to repent and to see each other as children of God.
After this crisis passes, I pray we don’t go back to “normal.” I pray this collective experience will move us to work for economic justice, affordable quality healthcare for all and everything else that promotes life for all and not just a select group. For many, the words of Martin Luther King Jr. have never rang truer — we are truly “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
Our Good Friday faith reminds us that Jesus died for all with no regard for the false distinctions we made among ourselves, and that we are called to love our neighbors in the same way.
This pandemic, like the crucifixion of Jesus, reminds us that evil and suffering are real and they do not have the last word.
The last statement Jesus spoke from his cross was, “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.” (St. Luke 23:46)
Lastly, our Good Friday faith reminds us that ultimately, we are all in God’s hands.
God’s hands are compassionate and will must trust that He will see us through this most challenging time. To those who are fearful, filled with anxiety and grieving, trust in him, rest in him and let him fill you with his comfort, peace and hope.
Just as Easter brought new meaning and joy to eclipse Good Friday’s suffering and death, so let your faith remind you that on the other side of this pandemic is victory!
May God bless you in this season of hope!
The Rev. James C. Perkins is senior pastor at The Greater Christ Baptist Church in Detroit.