What follows is an effort to offer some encouragement and provide some gentle reminders to God’s people in Christ about how we should live as “aliens and strangers” in the land, especially when we are in the midst of varying degrees of social anxiety caused by the pandemic of the Coronavirus (COVID 19). News of violence at local retailers and food markets certainly should cause Jesus’ words to His disciples to echo in our minds and hearts: “It shall not be so among you” (Matthew 20:26). God’s people simply live differently. We live with confidence based on the hope we have in the crucified and risen Christ Jesus. We know that God is for us and not against us as we look again at the cross and Easter’s empty tomb. Our sins are forgiven. We are made Children of God who are destined for eternity with our Creator. Such a foundation and such a hope-filled future affect how we engage our present predicament.
We have essentially two foci of responsibility:
- Toward our sisters and brothers in Christ.
- Toward our neighbor in society and world.
A Christian’s Responsibility to “the family of believers”
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:9–10).
Here are a few practical things to consider:
- Aging members of your congregation, whether in assisted living, nursing home, or at their residence, are at greater risk if infected with COVID 19. Still, they need care and assurance that they are not alone. While personal visits may not be possible, phone conversations will be welcome. You can use these conversations for listening to their concerns, praying with them, and offering some encouragement, or a laugh or two. You will need to gauge for yourself how much direct physical assistance you can offer, such as a grocery store run. Be discerning but helpful.
- With schools and some child care facilities closed, parents of young children may need some encouragement also. While this is not a time for “play dates,” a simple phone call can be a real encouragement. Please: pick up the phone and use it. A voice exudes much more care than an email or text no matter how many emojis you use!
- In general, make extra effort to connect personally with fellow members of your faith family. The temptation will be to reach out only to those you know well and with whom you have a deep friendship. Be encouraged to stretch you care boundaries and include several more individuals and households you may not know well, or at all, and just give them a call to check on them and let them know you are praying and caring for them.
- Make use of the live streaming that your congregation, or a sister congregation, may be providing while we are asked not to gather in large groups. Please do not feel foolish if you do not know how to do this. Call and ask someone: a fellow member or one of your congregation’s leaders.
- Prayerfully consider the finances of your congregation’s ministry. Often, when we do not attend worship, we do not give our tithe. That’s unfortunate. Ask what arrangements there are for you to continue your faithful support of the ministry.
- In addition, there may be added concern for part-time employees, or hourly workers, whose jobs have been interrupted and therefore will be in financial need for the short term. These may be staff members of your congregation’s child care, or they may be fellow members whose positions are dependent upon businesses affected by closure. What might our shared responsibility be?
- Continue to pray for your pastor and other leaders. They are seeking to do their very best in difficult circumstances. A note of encouragement may be just the thing they need, now more than ever.
A Christian’s Responsibility to our Neighbor in Society
“… as you have opportunity, let us do good to all people …” (Galatians 6:10a).
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king as supreme authority or to governors … Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:13, 16–17).
Here are a few practical things to consider:
- Please stay informed about—and follow—the directives given by our government leaders. No directives have been given that hinder our obedience to God as His people. To be sure, public gatherings for worship have been hampered, but Christians are not being “called out” or treated differently from anyone else. This is NOT persecution. Let’s keep our attitude and conversation in perspective.
- Pray for our President, our Governor, and other elected leaders. They have a tough job, especially right now.
- Speak well of our President, our Governor, and other elected leaders. They are not perfect. They may not reflect your (or Scripture’s) view on any number of social and moral issues; but they are elected and therefore have the responsibility and the authority to act as best they can with the information they have.
- Choose NOT to be part of the problem. People act crazy and selfish when they are afraid. As God’s child, safe in His love for you, you can give a positive witness to His peace and provision. Know that God has this under control, even if it doesn’t “feel” that way.
- Check in on your neighbors… especially the elderly. Many communities now have an email chain. Check in and chime in with words of encouragement. If you have contact information for some of your neighbors, now is a great time to touch base and ask how they are doing. Let them know you are praying for them and are ready to listen anytime … then actually pray for them by name.
- If you go to the store, be patient. Show deference to others by letting them “go first.” God knows what you need. He will provide for you.
- Communicate with neighbors (literally from around the world) how they can access your congregation’s live streamed worship service, or your pastor’s sermon online. Then invite them to an online (or by phone) discussion about the content of the sermon, etc. The Holy Spirit can and does work in some amazing ways!
- If you are not feeling well, don’t go out except to your health care provider.
- If you are asked to assist someone who is ill, prayerfully consider how you can fulfill this Christian obligation without endangering yourself or others. While we can indeed trust God to protect us, we should not “tempt Him”.
These are just a few thoughts. Perhaps they have your mind and heart stirring with additional ideas.
This may be our finest hour as the Body of Christ!
Photo courtesy of Elisa Schulz Photography