Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 ESV)
After living for nearly four months amidst the most unprecedented world events any of us has ever experienced, we are, Lord willing, continuing to make our way out of this pandemic. I am going to discontinue this “Amid Covid” series, which began on March 23, and resume a simple, straightforward word of encouragement here at Grace for the Race. But before I move away from sharing my thoughts on living through all the bizarre events that have taken place since the onset of the coronavirus, I think it’s important to pause and consider some of the lessons we may have learned during this time of such great unrest and uncertainty.
In speaking with members of Cross Community Church, I have received many different responses when I ask them what lessons they have learned during this pandemic. For some, it was a vivid demonstration that we are not in control of our lives, no matter how disciplined and determined we are with our daily routines, weekly schedules, and expected outcomes. For others, the coronavirus issued a grim reminder that life in a fallen world is fragile. Still others have told me that being forced to stay at home caused them to rediscover the importance of regular quiet times with the Lord.
Yet the most common response by far that I have heard from members of our congregation is that recent events have taught them that relationships are more important than anything else this world has to offer. The reason so many of us feel this way, of course, is because of the fact that, as image-bearers of God, we are created for community. As I often say from the pulpit, we were saved individually, to be sure, but we are saved to community.
From eternity past, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have existed in perfect, harmonious community with each other. This is the doctrine of the Trinity, which actually means that God IS community: one God, three persons, living, thinking, and acting together in perfect unity. Regardless of how our personality is hardwired (extrovert, introvert, socially adept or awkward), deep down within the very fiber of our being we long to be in relationship with others, and this strange, unsettling time of social distancing and the general shut-down of society has made this abundantly clear to us.
There is a reason that the Scriptures have so many “one another” statements, ranging from “love one another” (Romans 12:10) to “comfort one another” (2 Corinthians 13:11) to “encourage one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) to the command we see in today’s verse: to “bear one another’s burdens.” And that reason is that we are to create a loving, mutually supportive, Christlike community—a reflection of the nature of our God.
Creating community was something we all had to learn how to do from a distance during these past few months. Virtually overnight, we were cut off from a significant measure of interaction when this pandemic swept across the globe. “Community” was abruptly transformed from personal to virtual, as we stayed connected via the Internet and our phones. We saw drive-by birthdays, Zoom meetings, and virtual classrooms. Our kids saw proms and athletic events cancelled; one of life’s greatest experiences, the graduation celebration, was also wiped away by COVID, including the one I was scheduled to participate in on May 15, to receive my Doctorate from Knox Theological Seminary. And, of course, church services were restricted to live-streaming online.
And yet, despite all this separation, I believe we have all grown closer. We are closer to understanding what matters most in life, and it is not what we might have thought it was before this lockdown. Community, as flawed as it will always be because it is made up of broken people, is worth the effort, despite the misunderstanding and heartache—some wag might say heartburn—that inevitably comes with it. Like two porcupines huddled together on a frigid night, the closer we get to each other, the more we get pricked . . . but apart from one another, we will freeze to death. The Lord declared that it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18); each of us needs each other!
Perhaps now, as we begin to regather in whatever communities we belong to, we will be a little bit more patient, more quick to be kind, and more compassionate with one another, knowing now what life looks like without each other. And as we draw closer to one another, let us never forget to draw closer to Jesus Christ, who loved us enough to die for us, who has sustained us throughout this pandemic, and who is even now sustaining all things through the power of His word (Hebrews 1:3).
If this pandemic and the violence and vitriol that have erupted across the nation in recent weeks following the death of George Floyd have rekindled our need to draw near to Christ and present all our requests to Him, it will all have been worth it. Truly God is working all things for the good of those who love Him!
You are in my prayers and in my heart.
Purpose and Passion,