Loving One Another in the Quarantine

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.


The Evils of Division (part 1)

Over the past several posts, I’ve been giving an overview of Jeremiah Burroughs’ book, Causes, Evils, and Cures of Heart and Church Divisions. Though written in the 17th century, Burroughs’ could easily be addressing the Church today.  The divisions we face have the same causes, and bring the same pain and destruction to our hearts, and to the ministry of the Church, as it did so long ago.  Burroughs thoroughly explores those thoughts, words, and deeds that cause division, then explores the consequences of those divisions, finally turning to the healing cure in the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

We come today to Burroughs chapter on the Evils of Division, which he takes in two sections, 1) The goods they hinder, and 2) The sin they cause.  Today I’ll give a brief overview of the first part, and review the second next week.

The Good Our Divisions Hinder

Each of us has experienced a falling out in the family; whether your immediate family, or the family of faith.  Sin divides – the sins of others, and the sins of our own hearts.  We put our desires, our pride, our pain, before one another, and a chasm is created that pulls at the fabric of our union.

We know the pain of division, but have we ever stopped to consider just how our divisions really affect us?  Here Burroughs lists seven things that our sinful divisions hinder:

  1. The Quiet, Comfort, and Sweetness of our Spirits – “When the bee stings, she leaves her sting behind her, and never gathers honey any more. Men by stinging one another, do not lose their stings, but they lose their honey; they are never likely to have that sweetness in their hearts.” You know the experience, one argument with your spouse, one heated word with a coworker, and you are set on edge for the rest of the day.  I’m reminded of the old saying, “Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.” When we engage in contentions, it is inevitable that we will come way unscathed in spirit.
  2. They Hinder the Freedom of a Man’s Spirit – Contention is a great snare to a man: he wishes he had never meddled with it; he is weary of it: but knows not how to come off fairly.
  3. They Hinder the Sweetness of Christian Communion – Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote: “It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren” (Life Together). This sweet communion, this gift from God, quickly become tedious and soured by our divisions and fighting.  What was meant to be a source of joy and blessing has become jarring, embittered, and troubled.
  4. They Hinder our Time – When men are engaged in contentions, they will follow them night and day: whatever business be neglected, to be sure that must not.  Those times when we were to be in prayer to God, we spend trolling on social media, fuming and raging in gossip, plotting in our own thoughts.  So much of our time is wasted on our quarrels; time otherwise spent in building up one another and glorifying God.
  5. They Hinder our Prayers – Matthew 18:19 teaches, “if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” 1 Peter 3:7 also teaches, “husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”  Burroughs writes, “Private contentions in families are great hinderances of family prayer: so our public divisions and contentions are the great hindrances of the prayers of Christians in a more public way.”
  6. They Hinder the Use of our Gifts – “Many men have excellent gifts, but they are in such sour, vinegar spirits, that they are of little or no use in church and commonwealth.” In time of division, we we use the gifts God has given at all, it is only to advance our own side of the argument or to serve ourselves.  This is not why God has gifted the Church, and we become useless to ourselves and to others because of it.
  7. They Hinder our Graces – The reason the Church comes across as cold, dead, empty, barren is this: we are not united to one another. “If you untwist a cable, how weak is it in the several parts of it! A threefold cord is not easily broken; but a single one is.” What we need today are holy, humble, gracious souls – whose whole lives were “nothing but a continual exercise of self-denial; who were not only patient, but joyful, under afflictions.”  Instead, we quickly draw lines in the sand, choose sides, and bunker in for the fight with other Christians, and the beauty and glory of our faith are tarnished.

These are the goods that are hindered by our evil divisions.  We see these in our homes, our churches, our denominations, everywhere.  What goods we’ve lost in our divisions!

May we recognize how our divisions are hindering the work of the Church, repent and be healed, that Christ’s grace may be seen working in and through us.