We are facing a global problem right now and its name is not COVID-19. Our problem is that the Church in many places is not yet physically meeting. When the Church is not in a routine of coming together it is much easier for us to take the sin bait. We have made the best of the distancing situation but that can only carry us so far. It is so easy to hide sin behind a Facebook profile or in a text. We can easily appear happy and cheerful when in reality sin is knocking at our door.
James says that “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” In other words, sin lives in us. It has shaped a large part of our lives. We know its voice well and are naturally accustomed to heeding its lure. It is not unchristian for us to admit that we are sinners. This is completely natural. What is unchristian is for us to say that we are totally able to steer clear of all sin on our own.
We so desperately need each other right now it hurts! Do you feel the absence of each other? I know we miss the hugs and handshakes, but that just scratches the surface. There is so much more to the gathering of believers than physical nearness. We were made to need our brothers and sisters to look into our souls on a regular basis. We were made to stand before an awesome God and allow Him to search our hearts. If we do not do this on a somewhat regular schedule we can easily fall prey to sin’s destruction. Do not let your hearts be poisoned into thinking that social distancing means zero contact with anyone.
As we approach the regather mark, take the time to think through how that will look for you. I do not think for a minute that everyone will, on a chosen day, automatically return to worship with no inhibitions about catching a disease. Our regathering process will be a slow one. That is not a reflection on how much we miss each other. That shows just how deep fear of coronavirus has slipped into our consciousness. But we will regather, albeit slowly.
What will that look like for you? Will you begin by gathering with friends outdoors? If Churches planned Bible studies on decks and patios for small groups would you come? Will you come to prayer meetings if they are small and spread apart? Will you gather with two or three in your living room to worship the Lord together? Talking on the phone is just not enough. Texting regularly doesn’t cut it. Facebook posts surely don’t make the mark. We need to be able to look each other in the eye. We desperately need the physical interaction that leads to deeper conversations about the soul. How will you make these a reality in your life in the coming weeks?
We read of the early Church and their meetings in Acts. They weren’t facing a pandemic but they did meet under the threat of death. Yet they still met. Theirs wasn’t a meeting of obligation or duty but of great joy and deep desire. They were fully aware of their utter need for each other and the compounding work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. We see them gathering in homes, in open squares, in caves, in the Temple and in cemeteries. Their joy is infectious as we hear their testimonies of persecution and witness their determination to continue meeting. Why were they so adamant about meeting in person? Because they understood something we easily forget: there is strength to be found in the gathering of the Church; we are stronger together than we are apart.
Did you know this virus has more effects than lung damage? It affects the heart also. Perfectly healthy people can become fear-ridden overnight. It strikes at the root of anxiety, causing it to grow and flourish. The separation it produces causes deep loneliness. Don’t be mistaken. The virus test doesn’t catch all the symptoms. The Word of God must be applied to the heart to really see if this virus has taken hold in our lives.
Be encouraged, dear believer! You are not alone! No matter how much our enemy tries to get you to believe that no one else is facing the darkness you are facing, no matter how squeamish your heart can become, you are NOT ALONE. You have been given a great gift in the physical gathering of the Body of believers. Take hold of that gift! Begin now praying for a return path. It may not immediately look like Sunday morning worship, but you can gather nonetheless. Reach out to someone(s) who can reach into your soul and you into theirs. Give them permission to ask you serious questions and answer them slowly and reflectively, then ask them in return. We are not out of the woods yet but we do not have to act like we are in prison. May God bless us and keep us as we seek Him for our future.