Jesus says, “everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” – any ideas how we can keep loving one another & the world around us when we’re “social distancing” and “self-isolating”?
From an isolated Christian
Dear isolated Christian,
It’s hard to believe it’s only been a couple of weeks since we were all hanging out at Flinders together – enjoying a coffee from Urban Paddock, bumping into each other on the top floor of the Hub, meeting in person for Bible Talks, small groups & TNT – those were the days!
Now we’re stuck at home, with the same people, and the same routine, and it’s starting to get old… fast! All we want to be doing is hanging out with our friends, greeting them with a hug or a fist bump (you’d even take a handshake at this point, right?), enjoying a meal together, and just sharing life – because that’s what loving one another is all about right? Jesus makes it very clear that loving one another is a non-negotiable for those that follow him, so how do we do that well from a distance?
When you stop to think about it, as Christians we are quite familiar with loving from a distance. We love & are loved by a God who we do not see – and yet he is knowable, reachable, and responsive.
When it comes to loving one another from a distance, the New Testament really gets it. The whole reason we have a collection of letters from Paul, Peter, John & others is because more often than not they were separated from the people and churches they were writing to.
The apostle Paul is often unfairly portrayed as a bit of a grumpy old man, but many of his letters are genuinely warm, heartfelt, and tender, as he expresses his love, care & concern for his faraway brothers & sisters in Christ. How about these tear-jerkers in 1 Thessalonians:
…brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you – certainly I, Paul, did again and again – but Satan blocked our way. (1 Th 2:17-18)
…when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith… [Timothy] has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we long to see you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. (1 Thes 3:5-8)
We do well to pay attention to Paul’s priorities in his letters, like 1 Thessalonians, for how we can love and care for one another well from a distance:
Keep reaching out to people, even when you can’t see each other face to face
Speak honestly about your circumstances & how you’re feeling, and encourage them to do the same
If they are Christian, care especially about encouraging & strengthening one another in your faith – including keeping them accountable in godliness & discipleship
Pray regularly for your friends
If you’re looking for some practical suggestions for how to connect, here are a few ideas:
Send a message to 2-3 people each day & ask how you can pray for them
Write a letter or postcard & send to a friend to encourage them
Send a recipe to a friend, both cook it on the same night & then have a Zoom dinner together
Connect with TNT via Zoom each week, for the chance to connect, learn & pray for one another
Invite a couple of friends to start a “read a Christian book” book club, meet every few weeks to discuss
I’m sure there are many other creative ideas you can come up with – the important thing to remember is just because we are apart, doesn’t mean we stop loving & caring for one another, it just gives you a good excuse for avoiding Paul’s suggestion of greeting one another with a holy kiss (1 Thes 5:26)!!
Grace & peace,