According to this week’s news, the extreme safety measures put into place around the world during the pandemic have saved an estimated 3.1 million lives across 11 European countries, including 500,000 in the United Kingdom. They have also prevented an estimated 60 million coronavirus cases in the U.S. One of them could have been mine. Or yours.

These victories have come at a steep cost. As a result of the economic shutdown and stay-at-home orders that have protected so many, the World Bank projects the worst global recession in eight decades—roughly a human lifetime. And yet, look at all those hearts still beating, all those parents still tucking their children in bed, all those frail and elderly folks who are still here because the majority of us said that our short-term sacrifices were worth their long-term safety.

At the same time, our nation—and world—have risen up to say NO MORE to the kind of cruelty that kneels on the neck of a man who can’t breathe. NO MORE to Minneapolis police being seven-times more likely to use kicks, chokeholds, punches, takedowns, Mace and Tasers when arresting a person who is black. NO MORE to the kind of hate that dehumanizes and criminalizes a person because of the color of their skin.

Human life is precious. We all deserve the same opportunities, the same courtesies, the same protections. Not because of our age or occupation or address. Not because of our accomplishments or failures. Not because of our victories or mistakes. And certainly not because of four or five layers of epithelial cells, which (thanks to a substance called melanin) determine the shade of our skin. Human life is precious because we—every single one of us—are made in the image of the Living God.

“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them,” Genesis 1:27 (NLT).

So if you’re one of more than 20 million Americans who, according to the US Labor Department, lost your job by early May, or if you’re one of the Maine business owners waiting for the tourists to come back, I pray that God will reward the sacrifices you have made to protect others. And if you are one of the peaceful protesters who took to the streets over the past two weeks and risked catching the coronavirus to denounce the destruction of innocent lives, I pray that your cry for justice will be heard. But most of all, I pray for an increase in love.

When I was a child, we sang a little chorus based on Jesus’s words to his followers in John 15:11-12, “This is my commandment that you love on another, that your joy may be full.” For the Christian, love is not an option. If we are following Jesus, it is a command. Right now, love may look like wearing a face mask. It may look like marching in the street. Or it may look like laying down our wants, our privileges or even our lives—like Jesus—to save the life of another.   

Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of mid-coast Maine. She is also the author of the Lantern Hill Farm picture book series, celebrating the holidays in a way that builds children’s faith.