“Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Have you ever heard that phrase? There is definitely some real truth to that. That’s not always the case, but often times, when we are separated from a loved one for a period of time it causes us to long to be with them.
The circumstances that might separate us from loved ones are varied, but for many of us this season of sheltering in place due to COVID-19 is a time of being separated from many people we love. Although it is painful to be separated from one another, this is a time when parts of the Bible can take on flesh and blood and come alive to us.
Let me encourage you not to waste the lessons of COVID-19 and how we can lovingly minister to one another during this season.
Lesson 1: Redeem the time you have with your friends and family.
Ephesians 5:15–16 tells us to,
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
There is a lot that can be said about this verse, but simply put we shouldn’t waste time because the days are evil. COVID-19 is an example of the evil days we live in. When sin entered the world, evil entered and death, disease and pain along with it (cf. Genesis 3). As a global virus like COVID-19 threatens relationships we should be reminded not to take the time that the Lord has given to us with others for granted.
A very sweet picture of this comes at the institution of the Lord’s Supper.
Luke 22:15–16 says, And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus longs for this Passover meal before he is betrayed because he knows that it will be the last one until he eats it anew with his disciples in the kingdom of God! The last one takes special significance in part because he knows his time on earth with them is nearing its end.
Friends, we don’t know when our end or our loved one’s end is. Make the most of time. Cherish one another. Spend time serving, praying, and enjoying time with one another.
Lesson 2: Use the resources we have to communicate with each other at a distance.
In many of Paul’s letter’s to specific church’s, he opens his letter by sharing his thankfulness for the believers there and his love for them and how their faith encourages him. For example, Philippians 1:3–5
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
Paul takes the time to write to this church and expresses his thanksgiving for them, especially for their partnership in the gospel. In verse 7 he says, “It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.”
Paul loved the people in Philippi, and he wanted to communicate that to them and that’s why he wrote them a letter. That was one of the best tools available for communicating and ministering to one another at a distance, and Paul used it to encourage and minister to the Philippians’. The Philippians’ also used one of the tools available for communicating at a distance during that day. They sent one of their members to Paul—Epaphroditus (cf. Phil 2:25–30).
In the 21st century, we have a few more tools at our disposal for ministering to others at a distance. I don’t know about you, but I had no idea how many video calling apps there were! During the past 4 weeks I have used Vidyo, Skype, Facetime, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Duo and Zoom! I might be forgetting some, but the point is we have a lot of options for ministering to each other at a distance!
Here are some tools at our disposal for continuing to minister and communicate with others at a distance:
- Phone calls (classic :-)
- Text messaging
- Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms
- Video calling
- Snail mail (yes, this method still exists)
- Social distancing tail gates – go support a local restaurant with some friends and then eat in a parking lot together in their separate vehicles and shout out to each other from your window or tailgates.
I’d encourage you to make it your aim to reach out to at least one family member and one brother or sister in the church each day. Be creative in the tools at our disposal to communicate our love and concern for one another.
Lesson 3: Pray to the Lord who unites us all in Him—even at a distance.
Did you notice in Phil. 1:3–4 that Paul said he prays for them to the Lord? More than that in vv.9–10 he prays for them and writes down what he is praying for them.
I’d encourage you, make sure that your communication to others is out of the overflow of concern and love for them that is revealed in your prayers to the Lord. We may not be able to physically minister to one another in person. We may even be like Paul, who is in no position to repay the Philippians in any way—physically speaking (cf. Phil. 1:7, 4:19). But that doesn’t mean that we cannot help. We can whole heartedly entreat the favor of the Lord on their behalf! After all, we are called to love others the way that God loves us. And we are told in Romans 8:26 that the Spirit prays for us in our weakness, and in 8:34 we learn that Jesus Christ stands interceding for us. We can be like the Spirit and Jesus who intercede and pray for us!
If you need help praying for others, I’d encourage you to use Paul’s prayers (cf. 2 Thess. 1:3–12, 1 Thess. 3:9–13, Col. 1:9–14, Philippians 1:9–11, Eph. 1:15–23, 3:14–21, Rom. 15:14–33). A great book on prayer coming from these prayers of Paul is: Carson, D. A. A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992.
I know that these can be challenging times. But don’t let the challenges keep you from continuing to make it your aim to please the Lord (2 Cor. 5:9) but loving the Lord and loving others (Cf. Matt. 22:37–40).
My prayer for all of you is Psalm 119:143 – May you find the Lord and his commandments to be you’re delight during this troubling season.