Love in a Time of COVID-19: Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

Health officials are giving us step-by-step instructions on hand-washing, stocking our pantries and medicine cabinets, and even a meter-stick guide to social interaction. Experts are doing a great job explaining how social distancing can flatten the curve and be one of the most altruistic actions we can take right now as a nation. But when it comes to caring for our hearts and the hearts of those around us in the midst of these most unusual days, I hope these few reminders will be a help:


Stock-pile Peace

God has promised us peace if we ask Him. He doesn’t promise life without sickness, brokenness or frustration, but he readily makes His peace available to us. He invites us to come and get it freely. It’s never out of stock and it’s never too costly.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27).
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)

Take your thoughts captive (2 Cor. 2:5). Fix your thoughts on Jesus (Heb. 3:1). Take every anxious thought to Jesus through prayer and petition. Over and over again, we are given very active directives on how to war against anxiety. It starts and ends with Jesus. We pray. We fix our thoughts on Him. We worship Him as the One who is better than anything else, who is secure and firm even when everything else is rocking.

Pass the Peace

If you know and understand something of the comfort of God, this peace that passes all understanding (Phil 4:7), then you have a resource more precious than an N-95 respirator. Just like on the airplane when they tell you to secure your mask first before trying to help another person, if you are breathing in the peace of Christ, you are free to be a conduit of life-saving peace to the anxious and desperate around you. That desperation may not be anxiety about the virus itself, it might be anxiety about finances, the safety of loved ones, the dreams or plans put on hold or broken. Whatever it is, if you know the peace-giver, you can pass the peace. He is the One who gives us hope even amidst devastation of all sorts.


“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. “ (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
“Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thes. 5: 11)
“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn the idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thes. 5:14)

We have seen clear evidence of how a virus can spread exponentially. Guess what? You know what else can be a contagion? Hope. Peace amidst insecurity. Spread it. Infect everyone you know with the hope that Christ is the peace of every age, of every crisis, and of the age to come when all these things are distant memories. Be a vector of peace in your communities.

Social-distancing Doesn’t Equal Relational-distancing

Loving your neighbors well during this time may mean for many of us staying home, not gathering in large crowds, canceling our calendars and cutting back our activities. But just because we are keeping our physical distance, does not mean we need to keep our emotional distance.

Reach out to your loved ones with a phone call, text, email, Facetime, Skype, or whatever form of communication is most comfortable for those whom you love. Check on them. See if you can help meet a need whether it may be physical, emotional or spiritual. Reach out to the people on your street or in your neighborhood, school, or workplace. Listen to God’s Spirit; perhaps someone comes to mind who could use a call or email of encouragement?

Remember that air-mask on the airplane? If you are receiving God’s oxygen flow of encouragement through drawing near in prayer and His word, you are in a position to help secure someone else’s mask.

Love Your Nearest Neighbors

Last, but certainly not least, love well those closest to home. Don’t forget that your spouse, your children, your room-mate– whoever is living within your four walls– is your closest neighbor. They need you to love well right now too. Loving well means casting your cares on the Savior, drawing your peace from Him that you may truly, selflessly focus on the needs of others. That may mean putting your phone down and playing a board-game with your stir-crazy children. It may mean re-assuring your spouse that he is more important to you than your vacation plans or your 401k. It may mean looking past the irritating qualities of your room-mate and focusing on something you like about them or just making a meal together. Who knows, how slowing down, cutting back, and staying home might strengthen your relationships, if you lean into God’s care for you and extend that same love to those closest to you.

To “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) means to care for yourself by drawing near to God so that you can extend that love to others. Social distancing doesn’t have to mean relational distancing. If we look to Christ for our strength, we might find our relationships growing stronger than ever.

I leave you with the words from one Rebecca Arendell Franks, writing from Wuhan, China. She shares how God has been with them in the quarantine. Take heart:

Rebecca Arendell Franks is with Tsungirirayi Tinotenda Chakaza Fisher and 2 others.
March 8 at 3:42 AM
WUHAN. It’s roughly day 48 of the city’s quarantine. We’ve been locked in our apartment complex for many weeks. I haven’t eaten out since January 19. We’re living in such strange times.
After my last post, which was all about locks on doors and further restrictions, my husband asked me if I’ve posted any of the good. But…but… well, but nothing. That convicted me.
So from the epicenter of the coronavirus, here is just SOME of the good we have been experiencing because of the lockdown: (Be warned – there is no way this post could be short.)
Our family life has never been better. Usually one weekend is long enough before I’m ready to send each of us back to school or work. But for SEVEN weeks, we’ve been home together with very little outside influences or distraction, forced to reconnect with one another, learn how to communicate better, give each other space, slow down our pace, and be a stronger family than ever before.
We’ve learned how to accept help from others. During this time, we’ve HAD to rely on others to show us how to get food and other things we need. People here are so good, and they want to help. It’s satisfying to accept the help.
Shopping is so much easier now. It comes straight to our complex, and we just pick it up. Simple.
Right now I hear birds outside my window (on the 25th floor). I used to think there weren’t really birds in Wuhan, because you rarely saw them and never heard them. I now know they were just muted and crowded out by the traffic and people. All day long now I hear birds singing. It stops me in my tracks to hear the sound of their wings.
Spring in Wuhan is absolutely stunning. God has been giving us glimpses of the beauty to come with near-perfect weather. Because of lockdown, we get to watch spring slowly unfold right in front of us with no work, traffic, pollution, or other distractions. I have pulled up my chair and am ready for the creator’s show.
My cooking has gotten way more creative. I’m cooking like a homesteader. Housekeeping hasn’t suffered, either.
We take naps in the middle of the day sometimes.
We’ve all been reading so much more than before.
I’ve reconnected with lots of old friends. We’ve talked with our families more than ever before.
We still work and do school, but all from home and all on flexible hours. It is not perfect, but it is fairly productive and good.
We are exercising more. Because we borrowed a rowing machine from school right before the lockdown, Edgar Franks has been rowing regularly at home and has lost several kilos already. I still walk in the morning as usual, but I do so with no time restrictions and now with friend Erika Carlson.
In my yoga world, I have finally done a forearm stand. I also share goofy yoga photos each day with a local friend/yogi. This keeps us connected in spirit and movement.
I could devote a whole post to the amazing community we’ve been blessed with because of this lockdown. We live near 4 other staff members, most of whom we didn’t know well at all prior to this. Because of this quarantine, we have bonded with and supported each other in ways that I’ve never experienced in 9 years of living here. (Crowd sourcing for feminine products and coffee, creatively sharing overstock of carrots and squash, etc)
Friday night, we four staff women celebrated Julia Marie Roehrkasse’s birthday together. We four have never before been together without husbands, kids, or larger community. But that night, I felt like I won the lottery in the friendship department. Our gathering was genuine in a way that can only be shared by people who are experiencing the same thing at the same time and understand what each other are going through. This bond we have may lessen when our world gets back to normal, but for now I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It is good.
My prayer life has never been better and my study time has been much more real. I have quiet time that is actually (usually) quiet – and I can devote real time to it. Most days I have so much more time to think, to listen, to process, and to discover. I am discovering the good gifts that God has given me and my family. More than anything, I am bowled over by his goodness at every turn. He overwhelms me with his goodness.
We had “church” by Zoom this morning at 10:30, as usual. My husband just woke up from his nap. My kid is reading quietly on the couch. I have the luxury of writing uncensored here on FB. We are about to go pick up a ham that a friend is giving us, taking her our coffee and cranberries to share.
God is providing so many opportunities for good while we are here, and he is showing us his goodness every single moment.
We are at peace in the epicenter of the virus. We are at peace in the epicenter of his will.
Fear is a faithless coward and has no place in the lives of believers. Fear and worry have no seat at our table. We’re here because he wants us here, right now, for his purpose.
Coronavirus wants you to isolate and stock up and take care of your own first. Instead, look to him first while you take care of others. In community, we can do so much more than we can do on our own. God is caring for us so richly and showering us with SO MUCH GOOD each and every moment.
And the song just plays nonstop in my head – Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.
It chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the 99.
I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away. Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.
Psalm 118:6 – The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

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Fearfully, Wonderfully Snowed In: God in the Blizzard

snowfallAs a Florida girl living in Virginia, right in the bullseye of Jonas, I keep looking out my window utterly amazed. The snow is up to the roof of my children’s playhouse. I see the little chimney of it poking out with a pile of snow on top, a little frozen smoke puff. I know friends further north have seen more, but for this girl, this is the most snow I’ve seen in my entire life. And I keep having two simultaneous thoughts: how beautiful and how terrifying. As these thoughts keep colliding in my mind, I can’t help but think that all this snow has something to teach us.

The snow has made a new world out there. Everything is pristine, blanketed in purity. The trees are bedecked as brides. The limbs shimmer with powdered diamonds. Even the wind is in on the party, tossing sparkling confetti on the festal firs. As far as the eye can see there is the blinding brilliance of white. And just as when a bride enters the room, there is that reverent hush of a world watching in stillness and in awe.

snow in trees

And yet even as I stand back admiring this lovely world, there is another part of me that is afraid. The snow is so high; it’ll be days before we carve our way out. It is so soft and comes so lightly and yet it has the power to smother, to break, to bend, to bury. Even our toughest machines get caught in its drifts. Even our might is no match for this light beauty, should it continue to fall from heaven.

And as I feel the weight of wonder, I’m moved to remember a God who is simultaneously all-loving, all-good, all-beautiful and yet all-powerful, almighty, a force with which no man can reckon. Love the Lord. Fear the Lord. The burning brilliance of holiness is both something which compels our eyes and causes us to fall on our faces.

Like the awesome Aslan of Lewis’ Narnia, we might wonder with Lucy, is this lion safe? “’Safe?… Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” This world blanketed in white is a reminder of both aspects of our good and mighty God.

So what are we to do with this beautiful and yet fearful God? Like the snow, we better be prepared. For those well prepared, the snow holds no terror. But for those who have shirked its power, there is fear. God is good; but God is also coming and He is a mighty, beautiful force with which to be reckoned.

So how do we prepare for His coming? By confessing that we are utterly unprepared. By falling at the feet of this terrifying, beautiful God and pleading for His mercy. Repentance: I am undone by your holiness, Oh God. Belief: You alone can save me.

And here’s the wonder, He has and He does. God has turned that whole crushing weight of His wrath on His own Son, Jesus, on the cross. He was smothered, crushed, buried, that I might not be. The weight of this heavy load fell on Jesus that I might only feel the light cloak of righteousness on my shoulders. Oh weighty wonder. Oh heavy lightness! Let me remember both as I stare out my frosted window.

 

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