Hello, Christ City, I send you warm salutations, while maintaining a generous social distance!
I wanted to write and remind you of the importance of maintaining community during this season. I need the reminder, and I suspect you do too.
When I was writing my thesis in grad school, I pressed deeply into my studies. But, for a variety of reasons, far too deeply. I began withdrawing from people and became so absorbed in the library that I hardly came up for air. When I did need a break, I relaxed alone. To be honest, writing my grad thesis was one of the worst seasons of my life.
What I learned through that season was this: isolation is the opposite of the good Jesus wants for us. As Proverbs 18:1 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”
It appears we have a problem: you and I are living in a season where “self-isolation” and “social distance” have been added to our daily vocabulary. Isolation is real. It’s unavoidable. It’s for our good. And yet, inherent to it, are dangers we need to be careful to guard against.
Let me back up a bit and show you why.
You and I are created in the image of God (Gen 1:26), and part of what this means is that we are relational, as our God is relational. The eternal God is a Trinity: one God, eternally existing as a community of persons. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have lived forever in happiness, love, self-giving, comfort, companionship and relationship. This God made us in His image—to be relational like He is.
Of course, in this broken world, not everything is as it should be. Sin corrupts relationships and causes us to withdraw from real, intimate self-giving and love. But, the good news about Jesus is that He saves us and draws us into the same depths of relationships He experiences with Father and Spirit.
But it isn’t as if you and I are only joined in relationship with God, through Jesus. No—we are also joined to one another.
The joy of being saved by Jesus is communal and relational; God hasn’t just saved you or me. He’s saved a church. No Christian is a Christian alone. We are saved together, into Christ’s body, His Bride, filled with His one Spirit.
Now—here’s my point. If you are a Christian, you’ve experienced how sweet it is to be part of Jesus’s body. But I suspect that in this season of mandated isolation, you are beginning to feel lonely. Perhaps for the first time, you suddenly feel your need for the body of Christ because you are becoming aware of what you are missing.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes about this in his classic work, Life Together:
“It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed.”
I read these words a month ago and they hardly touched me. I read them again this week and they penetrated my heart. We have such a privilege as Christians—but we’re used to it. We take it for granted. And it’s not until a season like this one, where we can’t meet as usual, that we begin to appreciate the profound gift we have been given.
What we have is a profound gift: life together, restored together, into a relationship with God.
Know this: in this season of mandated isolation, you aren’t the only one who is lonely. And you can do something about it! Even in isolation, you are an essential vector for community in Christ.
I have three practical suggestions:
- Call, Skype, Facetime, or Zoom one another. Now, more than ever, the sound of a brother or sister’s voice on the phone is especially sweet.
- Check-in on one another. Who are you aware of in the church that may need some help? Have you connected with that person? If you are unable to help them, have you connected them with someone who can?
- Pray together. Praying together digitally might feel weird, but it’s so encouraging. It’s so needed! Embrace the weirdness and seek to be an encouragement to one another. Compile a list of needs in your community. Pray for God’s kingdom to come. Pray that He would use this season to save the lost and to make His church more like Jesus.
Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” We are relational creatures, broken by sin, but restored by the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s lean into this season and love one another well to the glory of God in Vancouver and the world.