Stay Apart but Keep Connected
Romans 12: 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Romans 12: 9-12 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
We live in what would seem to be unprecedented times. To slow the spread of a pandemic that is sweeping the globe, communities are being forced to enact a variety of restrictions and changes to the ways we act and interact with each other in hopes of lessening the effects of this major public health emergency. The cornerstone of most responses has been to enact social distancing measures to slow down the spread of the new Coronavirus.
These restrictions, for many of us, are difficult to cope with because as humans we draw so much of our strength from each other through our interactions. This is especially true of communities of faith. But social distancing does not mean that we need to feel alone. We are all in this together. And though the ramifications of the current situation may be far reaching (probably in ways that we can not yet comprehend) we know that God is good and always in control. We also know that though we are being forced to stay apart that this cannot keep us from staying connected.
In Romans 12, as he concludes the book, Paul gives this group of believers – most of whom he had never even met – some crucial teaching about their relationships within the church and their broader communities. He shows them, in practical terms, that if we are alive unto God we will also be alive unto others – that is, we will be sensitive to their needs and be concerned about them.
In the midst of chaos there is also opportunity. In this case, among many other things, there is a great opportunity for the church to truly be the Church: to embrace the Word of God wholeheartedly and to reach out in unity to a world in need. But this will not happen if we disengage. We must stay connected. We must stay connected to God, to our families, and to our communities.
Keep Connected to God
John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing
Philipians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You
2 Chronicles 7:13-14 If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; 14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
It is clear that our response to the vicissitudes of life should be to run to the Rock that is higher than we are! For when everything is shaking, you would be wise to take hold of the One who is unshakeable. Now is not the time to abandon your prayer life, or your reading habits, your standards of holiness, or your giving. Use your time in forced isolation to strengthen your bond with God.
Jesus spent 40 days of isolation in the wilderness fasting and praying. But he emerged from that time in the power of the Holy Ghost (See Matthew 4 or Luke 4). We too should use this period of isolation to sharpen our spiritual senses and to draw closer to God. And let us do so in faith. For your faith can move the hand of God, and the hand of God can move the universe.
Keep Connected to Your Family
Social distancing causes significant challenges for our families. For some of us, we're confined to small spaces with our spouses and children, with little to no reprieve. We've got to balance work life and personal life, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Add in the likely disruptions to income and constant external stresses and fears that are outside of our control and your home can become a real pressure pot! If we are not purposeful about it, this can be a recipe for disaster. On the other hand, social distancing and isolation may be keeping us away from loved ones like grandparents or our grown-up kids.
In the first case, we must take heed to the Word of God and be kindly affectionate to one another. Not only should you all take time to pray together, read the Word together, and attend online services together but you also need to take time to enjoy each other’s presence! Give each other a break (it might be hard for you to deal with them… but imagine what they are going through with you!). Watch a movie together. Pick up some new hobbies. Let your kids build a fort with all that toilet paper you have been hoarding! Laugh and love. This is a great opportunity to grow closer together, to learn more about each other, and to reprioritize our time moving forward.
For those with family members who are far away or ill or elderly, make use of today’s technology. Make sure you are checking in on each other and attending as best as you can to one another’s needs. If that doesn’t work, maybe make use of some old technology and write some letters. It is important for these family members to know that they are not alone and that you care for them.
Keep Connected to Your Community
The ramifications of the current crisis are far reaching in ways that few of us could have possibly imagined. It is important in this time, that we as believers stay engaged with our communities and acutely aware of its needs. If you are able to meet these needs, do so. As the ripple effects continue to move through our communities let us be prepared to help in any way we can. And let us underscore the reality that we as a Church can do far more collectively than any one of us can do alone. It is also worth noting, that helping can be as much about what you do (e.g. donating blood, or basic food supplies, or keeping someone on payroll even when your company is suffering financially), as it can be about what you choose not to do (e.g. not attend or organize large gatherings, or not taking all the toilet paper off the shelves).
This crisis has emphasized our interconnectedness and interdependence. We are in this together. Stay apart but keep connected!
Isak Nti Asare