There can be no doubt as to what story has dominated the news headlines this week, just about everywhere in the world. Much has been said and written about coronavirus already, and much more will be said and written. The situation is fluid and changing daily. Updates go out of date very quickly. All I can offer is a few random thoughts about all this. Hopefully they’ll still be relevant by the time you read them.

1) ”Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” (John 8) It is so easy to criticise decision makers. Sometimes it seems as if everyone is an expert, everyone knows better than the authorities who make the painful decision that we have to live by. However, they have access to genuine experts. They also have a broader view of how different factors affect each other – quarantine, travel, school, work, logistics, age, health, economics and so on. Do I really know better than them?

2) Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God”. (Romans 13) Every week we pray for the Finnish authorities and church leaders. What power they have ultimately comes from God. It is part of God’s plan that they are in power. This may be a difficult thing to accept in many countries, since many countries have awful leaders. Then there are countries like America where people value individual efforts and often despise the ”interfering” state. But the starting point should be that the authorities know – more or less – what they are doing.   

3) The individual and the collective. This is a time to follow the rules rather than ”go it alone”. An individual who decides to break the rules concerning organising large meetings or quarantine puts the lives of others at risk. An individual who stockpiles bread, mince, chips, toilet paper or painkillers is depriving others of those – mostly – essential items.

4) Return to the good old days. In the old days, when the state had only a small, distant role to play in people’s lives, people turned to their kin (suku) for help in times of need. They still do in developing countries. It is time we resurrected this clannish behaviour. Most people have elderly relatives, and they need us right now. The social services cannot possibly look after all of them, nor can volunteers or the church. In my lifetime relatives have tended to be people who you spend good times with – have nice meals together, exchange Christmas presents with, visit in the summer, and so on. We are all relatives and we should be there in the bad times too.  

5) Thank goodness for the social media. I have always greatly preferred face-to-face meetings to chatting online or even phoning people. Now, even I must admit that the social media can be very useful. This is a good time to get to know better how various social media work. It’s also a good time to advise other dinosaurs about using the social media. Like almost anything else, they are easy to use once you get used to them.

6) It is time to stop taking things for granted. People often assume all sorts of things: that economies will always grow, that technology will find solutions, that it is normal to be healthy, or married, or in work. In fact we should be grateful for any of these good things in our lives. Nobody has a right to any of them. Each good thing in our lives is a blessing.

7) I saw a list of essential personnel the other day, people whose children the school and kindergarten system will look after so they can get to work. The list included cleaners. How essential their work is now. How little praise or thanks they receive. And how poorly they are paid.   

Christopher Montgomery

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