Our Pages

Love in the time of social distancing

Love in the time of social distancing
Posted on April 1, 2020  - By Lisa Mattackal

We’re living in truly unprecedented times. Most of you reading this are likely working from home, have cancelled flights, and maybe even know someone who’s been infected with Covid-19.

Though many things are changing, our mandate as believers in Christ to love and serve our neighbors is the same. The Church has been given a unique opportunity to speak to our current cultural moment and show God’s love to our friends, families and communities, although it may look slightly different than usual.

Love through physical absence

Central to our Christian practice is our physical community in the local church. No live stream can compare to the meeting, singing, and commmuning together. Yet, churches around the world have been ordered to close for weeks, maybe months. I was more than a little crestfallen, knowing I won’t be able to celebrate Easter as I did last year — singing Handel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ at the top of my lungs along with a church choir and pipe organ. What does the Church do when the “body” of Christ goes virtual?

The greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:36-38). The second greatest commandment flows directly from our love for God: “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). I suggest that the best way we love our neighbours during a global pandemic is by listening to the advice of medical experts. We love by practising social distancing. We love by washing our hands. This is a sacrifice, to be sure — well, not the washing of hands — not just for individuals battling cabin fever, but as Christians who must sacrifice our physical fellowship and communion for the good of our communities.

During a global pandemic, we love by practising social distancing. We love by washing our hands

By sacrificing our weekly gatherings, we’re not just protecting our own health. We love our elderly and immunocompromised neighbours. We serve our medical professionals by “flattening the curve” and not adding to their over-burdened workload. We demonstrate love for those devastated by economic fallout. Working from home and live-streaming sermons from our couches on Sunday may not seem like an act of service, but it is our calling for this season.

Esau McCaulley put it well in The New York Times: “The data suggests that what the world needs now is not our physical presence, but our absence.”

Love through grief

The Christian interwebs have been flooded by messages and posts telling us not to worry and be sad. I agree wholeheartedly that we should be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6-7), and the joy of the Lord is more important than ever (Nehemiah 8:10). However, both Scripture and Christian tradition demonstrate the importance of space for seasons of grief and lamentation — in fact, we’ve got an entire book of the Bible on the subject. Christian joy and peace can coexist with genuine sorrow for the tragedy that’s befallen our world.

We can grieve alongside those that have lost loved ones. We ought to feel sorrow for the millions, perhaps billions, that face unemployment. Most of all, we ought to grieve for the devastating effects of sin that we see when sickness sweeps the globe. The Christian can never be satisfied with the world as it is. Times like these stir our longing for Christ’s new creation when the shadow of death is vanquished at last. In the meantime, we can show solidarity by grieving for the suffering and praying for relief.

Working from home and live-streaming sermons from our couches on Sunday may not seem like an act of service, but it is our calling for this season

Love through prayer

Many are praying for this epidemic to end — and prayer is the most powerful weapon that we have. We demonstrate love when we set aside time to intercede for global leaders, for medical and emergency workers, for the sick, and the dying. James tells us that, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16). It’s true that prayer may not feel like you’re “doing something”. But Scripture is clear that our prayers can make effect change.

Love through giving

While we may not be able to meet in person, we still have opportunities to serve each other by giving our time and resources. Check in with your elderly or homebound neighbours to see if they need groceries. Call friends and family to see how they’re doing. Take this opportunity to reach out to people that you don’t normally speak to. There’s quite a lot that we can give, even from a distance, to fight loneliness and isolation.

We can also love by giving up. The great toilet paper crisis of 2020 may have prompted high-quality memes, but hoarding supplies isn’t loving. You’ve likely seen the heartbreaking stories of mothers who couldn’t find diapers for their kids, or of people hoarding and selling masks for 10 times their usual price. Buy what you need, and be willing to share with those who aren’t as fortunate.

As McCaulley wrote, “What did the church do in the year of our Lord 2020 when sickness swept our land? We met in smaller groups, washed our hands and prayed.” In these small, seemingly insignificant ways, we can show the world Christ’s love at a time of desperate need.

Lisa Mattackal

About Lisa Mattackal

Lisa is a 20-something millennial discovering how to glorify God in all aspects of life. Despite being a "recovering introvert," she's always up for coffee and good conversation. She works as a journalist in Bangalore, India.



Get a notification in your Inbox

A weekly brief of new resources and Scripture-based insights from our editorial team.