Love Your Neighbor

As Christians we are called love our neighbor – a mandate that spans the prophets, the Gospels, and the letters of Paul.  This isn’t a command that is supported by a single proof text. Jesus, himself, taught us of the importance of this commandment.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Mt. 22:37-40

BioLogos has prepared a Christian statement for Science in Pandemic Times. I encourage you to read it and consider signing it (I have signed it). The threat is very real and we are called to act in a fashion that shows our love for others. This doesn’t mean cowering in fear, but it does mean acting in a prudent and respectful manner.

Early on it was common to hear complaints that the crisis was manufactured and politically motivated. That is not as common today. The data is clear. From death certificate data filed with the CDC there is little doubt of the persistence of the crisis. There is a consistent pattern in the number of deaths in the US and their seasonal variation. The orange dashed line in the plot below is the expected number based on past history. The blue is the total number recorded (P&I&C stands for pneumonia, influenza, and covid). The vertical dashed line indicates when classes went online at my university.  The bottom graph shows the difference between actual and expected deaths. The data are plotted through the weak ending 8/1/2020, but the numbers for the last couple of weeks shown will go up some as more death certificates make it into the CDC.

The bottom graph is the most striking. Without considering the recorded cause, the total number of deaths is more than 5000 above the expected value every week. Such an increase is unprecedented in recent history. This is an important point. Even the experts are in a position of learning on the job. An analogy might be learning how to build a stable raft out of logs while shooting the rapids.

The BioLogos Statement notes:

Experts have been communicating their knowledge in real time as the pandemic progresses, which has led to some confusion. In the early days, they advised the public against masks when supplies were needed for healthcare workers, but later they changed their message in response to more data. A change in expert advice is not a sign of weakness or unreliability, but of good scientific practice and honesty.

In March and April it was common to hear experts note that most masks are little use against viruses because of their size. As we learned more about aerosols containing the virus and the most common modes of transmission, it became clear that even simple masks could make a difference. Fewer people would contract the virus and those who did contract it might on average have less severe cases. Science a lump of clay to be shaped as desired, but scientists do follow the data and change views as necessary.

The BioLogos statement ends with five commitments.  Consider them carefully and sign the statement if you agree.

To quote the Apostle Paul, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Let us act as people who love.

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]

This post is also available at Jesus Creed, now published as a Christianity Today blog.

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2 Responses to Love Your Neighbor

  1. William D Tanksley Jr says:

    Where can I see a larger version of that graph? It’s hard for me to make out the colors, and the dotted line is completely invisible to me (I see the dotted line in the legend, but not on the graph).

  2. rjs5 says:

    I will try to get a version with bolder lines uploaded.

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