The severity of the Coronavirus crisis continues to increase, and more and more people have found themselves confined to their homes. For the Church, it may be tempting to simply shirk our responsibility to love our neighbor and our local church in the name of social distancing. While it is imperative that we respect the elderly, young children, and the immunosuppressed by social distancing, this does not give us a hall-pass on doing ministry during this time. The question is then, how? How can we possibly love and extend kindness while bound to the confines of our homes? I have asked myself this question many times in the last week. I think the answer is simpler than we might think: we spend many of our hours on our phones, computers, and other devices. What if we used an hour of our day on our devices reaching out to the lonely?
With just a moment of thought, we can think of many who find themselves in the reality of isolation: the widow or widower next door; the man or woman stuck in a nursing home with no visitors allowed; the single young man or woman who lives alone in an apartment. The list goes on and on. I think particularly of the individuals who fight the mental battles of anxiety and depression. Isolation gives their mind both the time and space to go to the dark places, the lonely places, the places where lies run freely. The enemy of our souls tells the anxious and depressed that their temporal reality of physical isolation is an affirmation of their fears that they are not valued, unworthy, and rejected. Having battled the crippling nature of anxiety and depression, I know this struggle well. An unexpected call or text would release me from the bondage of my thoughts and ground me back in reality. More importantly, these messages often pulled my gaze upward to the Healer, the Prince of Peace.
Perhaps ministry in the midst of social distancing looks as simple as an encouraging text, a phone call, or FaceTime. Sometimes a message as simple as "Thinking of you!" means more than you might think. Unexpected messages show those who find themselves isolated in the midst of social distancing that they aren't alone--not really. Point your friends, your family members, your neighbors to Jesus, our High Priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). Exhort your brothers and sisters in Christ with the present reality that God is near to them, that he promises to NEVER leave or forsake them. He is the God who "heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds" (Psalm 147:3).
This simple ministry extends both to those in the family of God and those outside of it. How does Scripture say that the world will know we are Christ disciples: by how we love one another (John13:35). During this unprecedented time in history, Christians have a unique opportunity to live out what we profess, through our reaction and response to COVID-19. As we love others, specifically those who find themselves alone during this time of seclusion, we can display to an unbelieving world the transforming love of Jesus. Let's live the gospel and love the lonely.