To say I was looking forward to watching my team play was an understatement. My excitement was heightened by the fact that the value of the tickets I possessed far outweighed what I had actually paid for them. The high demand and difficulty in obtaining them meant they were worth much more financially than the purchase price. They were also of personal value, as this was to be our oldest son’s first game, to mark his tenth birthday, and I have only ever been a handful of times in my life myself. Lastly, the game had taken on a much greater historical significance, as my club appeared to be on the brink of winning the league for the first time in 30 years, and there was even the possibility that the championship might be clinched at the match we were going to. Everything seemed perfectly poised. Everything, that is, until the world suddenly changed…
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across the globe and has caused some of the richest and most technologically advanced nations to grind to a halt. Sporting fixtures were of course one casualty of the chaos, prompting the coach of my team to reflect that the game was simply the “most important of the least important things.”
This succinct reflection perfectly captures the way in which the on-going tragedy has put everything else into perspective. It has given us all pause for thought about how we spend our time and what we consider valuable in normal life. Has the crisis caused you to think about or re-evaluate what or who is important in your life?
The fact of the matter is that our culture tells us that some individuals are worth more than others. It is not just the rich and famous who are put on a pedestal, but we consider certain human traits to be desirable. These might be having a useful skill, money, confidence, personal success, beauty, intelligence, a good sense of humour, certain relationships or influence. Furthermore, we cannot escape the fact that most people are paid according to what an employer thinks they are worth, which often results in big differences within businesses—to say nothing of the huge disparity of wealth between rich and poor countries. In other words, a person’s value seems to be so often tied to what they do, are like, or what functions they serve.
If there is no God, then our worth has to be based on certain characteristics, such as mental or physical capabilities, because there is nothing special about simply being human.(1) The Christian worldview is radically different, however, as it states that all people—irrespective of what they do or are like—are incredibly valuable, because they are not only loved by God, but made in his image. If that isn’t enough to emphasise what humans are worth, then consider the fact that Jesus paid the ultimate price for all of us, by dying on the cross in our place, so that we might be forgiven for our wrong doing and have eternal life.(2) In other words, our merit is based on a freely-given gift of grace, rather than on anything we have done or achieved in life to qualify for it. We may be so used to hearing this that we can easily forget just how profoundly radical and counter-cultural that idea was and still is. It establishes the very foundation upon which our notions of human equality and dignity are based, in a culture that constantly tells us that certain people are of lesser worth, whether it be the poor and marginalised or simply those who lack the traits that confer a higher social status.
In this rupturing time of global crisis, these values of our society, as well as those we personally choose to live by, are brought into much sharper focus. As the journalist Peter Baker put it, “[D]isasters and emergencies do not just throw light on the world as it is. They also rip open the fabric of normality. Through the hole that opens up, we glimpse possibilities of other worlds.”(3) Although he meant this in a purely secular sense, his point rings true in a spiritual sense too. We have a window through which we can see not only a better value system that seems to resonate with what we feel deep down, but also a God who gave us that worth in the first place and created us for relationship with the creator himself.
So, if we feel like our foundations are crumbling or that we are the least of those around us, we should remember what we mean to the most important one of all. God offers us transformation and a future. As the Gospel of John quotes the one in whom this restoration is possible: Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
Simon Wenham is Research Coordinator at the EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) headquarters of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Oxford, England.
(1) Ethicist Peter Singer is one of many commentators to note that in a naturalistic worldview there is nothing special about humans, as that is a religious concept that he considers to be “speciesist” (favoring one species over another, when there is no special divide between humans and other species).
(2) John 3:16 is the most famous description of this.
(3) www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/31/how-will-the-world-emerge-from-the-coronavirus-crisis (accessed 20 April 2020).