“The most important [commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
As the restrictions designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus are beginning to be relaxed, what is one good thing can you think of that has come out of the quarantine? I’m sure you can think of a few good things . . . and many bad things as well. The good thing that tops my list is the number of “new” neighbors we have been able to meet.
For the past five years, we have walked our golden Labrador, Cali, twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. As we walked the streets of our Fort Lauderdale neighborhood, we would cross paths with the same set of neighbors who were also out walking, jogging, or cycling. However, during the past two months, the sidewalks and the streets in our neighborhood have been filled with many more people than usual, many of whom we had never seen before, giving us new opportunities to connect with a great many more people. Our neighborhood now genuinely feels “neighborly,” and it has provided wonderful opportunities to invite our new friends to join us for online church.
In addition to those who are out exercising, we have also seen more people tending to their yards, planting gardens, and rearranging flower beds. This too has thrown open doors of opportunity to connect with people we had never seen outside their homes, and we have found an unusual willingness in many to shift from casual conversation into a frank discussion of spiritual things. As a pastor, I always welcome these opportunities, and I believe this new openness to the spiritual is God’s way of providing a silver lining to the dark COVID cloud we have all been living under for the past two months.
This global pandemic has captured the attention of the entire world, and I have no doubt that God has been steadily working to expand the cause of His kingdom. As Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (John 5:17). And one way He may enlist you and me into that work is simply by setting out for a walk in the neighborhood and being friendly to our neighbors . . . always remembering to keep a respectful distance out of respect for those who are still badly frightened by the coronavirus.
I use this quote from C. S. Lewis often, and it provides a fitting close to today’s word of encouragement:
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience,
but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
This global pandemic has been a painful time for all of us, and the relaxing of the restrictions on our daily activities probably feels long overdue for many, but let us not lose sight that the Spirit of God has never been restricted—not in these recent weeks or at any time throughout eternity. I believe the Sovereign Lord is using what appears to be a terrible thing—a deadly virus—to accomplish a wondrously good thing: the saving of souls. As for me and my house, we will continue walking our neighborhood and talking with our neighbors, looking for opportunities to share the truth of Jesus Christ, and trusting that God will supply the increase.
You are in my prayers and in my heart.
Purpose and Passion,