This time of isolation and quarantine is difficult. But it has had at least one benefit: I have been renewed in my appreciation of the gathering of the body of Christ. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” so they say. I couldn’t agree more.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in the book Life Together, “The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.” How true! This echoes the sentiment of the Psalmist, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1). The opportunity to come together for worship, fellowship, and discipleship ought to be the highlight in the life of the believer.
Though we cannot come together, we are doing what we can to maintain some semblance of regular life and ministry in the church. The doors are still open for those who want to come and meet for prayer and study. We continue to offer our Sunday morning worship, even though we are recommending that everyone tune in via our cable broadcast and Youtube.
Still, it’s not the same.
I am reminded of those times when Paul wrote to the churches about his desire to come to them (Rom 1:10, 1 Thess. 2:8) to share in their fellowship and ministry. He also wrote to Timothy and Titus at times, urging them to come to him when he was in prison (2 Tim 4:13; Titus 3:12). John, in writing to the church, twice states that though he had much to write, “I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 12; 3 John 13). To paraphrase the apostle, I have much I could write in my blog, or say on Facebook Live – but I would rather talk with you in person, so that our joy may be complete.
But for the time being we continue with the quarantine.
This time of social distancing, however, need not hamper our expression of love in Christ for one another. As a matter of fact, social distancing, and forsaking our rights and privileges for the sake of those around us, may be one of the greatest demonstrations of love we can ever show. Paul wrote in 1 Cor 13, “Love does not insist on its own way…” For the sake of loving our neighbor, we are called to lay down our own lives, our own desires, our own preferences, all to show the love of Christ. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
We are practicing isolation so that we do not wrong our neighbor, and in this is love (Rom 13:10). Martin Luther, when asked what the Christian’s response should be during the midst of the plague, wrote:
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate (disinfect), help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.” (Whether One Should Flee From A Deadly Plague – To Rev. Dr. John Hess)
If we want to be the body of Christ, and love one another well, let us recommit to praying for one another. Call the members of your church, your neighbors and friends; find out how they are doing, and pray for them. Intercede before the throne of God on their behalf.
Long ago I heard a pastor talk about just how powerful a sign of love intercessory prayer really is. You have this opportunity to come before God, to ask Him all that your heart desires. Your first desire is for His glory, but long before you pray for yourself, you pray for those around you. Saying I will pray for you is not some cliche line to end a conversation, it is a pledge that you are on my heart and I will plead your case before our heavenly Father. This is love.
Another way to encourage one another, even though we cannot be together, is to bless one another with the Word of God. Send cards, emails, or post on Social Media scriptures of promise and hope. As you spend time in the word daily, share what you’ve been reading. When you call on your fiends and loved ones, share with them God’s Word. Don’t miss the opportunities God has given to let His Word be spoken. Build up and encourage one another with the gift you’ve been given.
Remember, the church is not the building, it is the people of God. Even in this time of isolation and distancing, especially in this time of isolation and distancing, we are to be the Church for one another. Beloved, let us love one another.