For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passion … that no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister or sibling in this matter. - 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 excerpted (NRSV)
Maybe you think this scripture is all about sex. (Isn’t everything about sex?)
But in reality, there are a lot of ways we use our bodies that exploit others. The twin pandemics of the novel coronavirus and not-so-novel racial injustice have revealed the astonishing degree to which our enfleshed lives are interconnected and integrated.
I feel fine, but if I sneeze at the wrong moment, maskless, my (elderly, immunocompromised) sister could die.
I am not in any real danger but if I call the cops because I see something unfamiliar, my (Black, brown, immigrant) brother could die.
This is not chaos theory. It is bodies acting upon other bodies with grave consequences.
From what we eat to where we shop, to whether and when we mask, to whom we call on for help when we feel under threat – our choices have deep ethical implications. We are suddenly and critically aware that our body is deeply connected to, and responsible for, the One Great Body.
The complexity of these ethical equations might cause us to numb out, if we have that choice, and stay in a sweet retail haze, hoarding soup or buying safety with others’ suffering.
Or we could go into a moral panic and be paralyzed from doing anything at all, because in a labyrinthine global economy it’s impossible to be 100% morally pure (fans of The Good Place, feel me?).
There is a way through this quandary. Stop, pray, and listen for God to tell you Their will. They will.
God, I want what everyone wants: to be safe and have enough, through this turbulent, terrifying moment. Yet not my will but thine be done.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of First Congregational Church UCC in Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church, Standing Naked Before God, and her newest baby, Bless This Mess: A Modern Guide to Faith and Parenting in a Chaotic World.