5 Community Commitments For Healthy & Holy Witness in the age of COVID
If there is one word used more than any other in the past 5-6 months it’s the word disruption. COVID-19 has certainly disrupted nearly every aspect of our lives, and with disruption comes the need for adaptation. How do we stay faithful to our mission while adjusting our practices to account for new obstacles and opportunities?
On the one hand this season of adaptation has challenged us to explore new, and often unfamiliar, ways of relating safely with one another. On the other hand the church has been invited to embrace aspects of our identity and mission that are not new at all, but have been with us all along. When all the comforts of our programs and productions are stripped away, and our priorities are so dramatically rearranged we are still left with the questions who are we to be and how then shall we live, in light of the love of Christ in our lives?
Below are 5 commitments that we can reaffirm in the age of COVID. These commitments are grounded in scripture and the theological convictions of the family of God and lead us to very practical ways of relating to one another that honor Christ and honor each other. Take some time to reflect on these commitments in your community as you determine “This is what we WILL do, because of who God has CALLED us to be!”
In Christ shaped community we
Honor each other’s HEALTH
Honor each other’s TIME
Honor each other’s HEARTS
Honor each other’s SPACE
Honor each other’s UNITY
I. Honor each other’s HEALTH
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.
God loves every part of us and scripture makes clear that our witness in the world requires our full self: mind, heart and body. As we go out to love and serve the world, we share our best selves in service to the Kingdom of God. This means we commit to offer our healthiest self and we commit to safeguard the health of others.
Have you considered that washing your hands, wearing a mask and keeping a safe distance from others could all be spiritual practices? How can we better demonstrate love for our neighbors and care for their health?
COVID is not only a threat to our physical health, but our mental health as well. We are relational beings and need connection with others. Do you have someone that you check in with regularly, and who checks in with you? Someone you can talk to and share your honest feelings with? Is God directing you to reach out to someone to see how they’re doing?
II. Honor each other’s TIME
So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.
2 Peter 3:8-9
But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.
Time is a precious, non-renewable resource. Our eternal God who is over all and sustains all things, set apart the day and the night and created a season for every matter under heaven. How we spend our time matters to God. We commit to give our time to what is God honoring and people loving. We protect our time for rest, recovery, and renewal. We won’t give away our time unthoughtfully and we won’t selfishly take for granted the time of others. We will pursue healthy rhythms for our days and weeks to use our time well.
Do a quick time audit of your day or your week. How are you spending your time? How much time are you spending with the Lord? How much time are you giving to people and activities that are life giving to you?
Is it hard for you to say no? We don’t like to hear no and we often don’t like to say it. But saying no is just as important as saying yes. If we want to say yes more to the things that are most important to us, then we have to say no more to the things that aren’t. When was the last time you said no? How did it feel? How did it work out? What do you need to say no to today?
III. Honor each other’s HEARTS
Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
God is love. God’s desire for us is to love him, to love others and to love ourselves. Our hearts were crafted uniquely to motivate us for the good works that God prepared for us to do. Our hearts can be fickle and fragile, they can be fearful and forlorn. We are called to align our hearts to the heart of God. To draw near to others in love and to guard our hearts against the thief who comes only to steal and kill and destroy. Our heart’s deepest desire is found in Christ who offers us life abundantly.
Our inability to be together physically makes it all the more important to express love through other outlets. What new ways have you found to love others? How has this creativity reflected the vast love of God? How have you felt loved despite separation?
We all, at one time or another, find ourselves brokenhearted. Perhaps more so now these days. Psalm 147:3 says that the Lord “heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.” If we believe this promise, what heartbreak would you share with the Lord today?
IV. Honor each other’s SPACE
”I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
Just as the Spirit of Christ brings the presence of Christ to each of us, we too can be physically distant and still relationally close to one another. This is a gift of the Spirit. Sacred space is not just determined by where we gather, but how we gather when we gather in the name of Jesus. Hospitality is not just determined by how we invite others in, but how we carry the light and love of Christ out. We commit to create safe spaces, where vulnerability is protected, authenticity is expected and where grace abounds.
Look around. Where are you, physically? How do you fit in the space? Who is with you? Who is missing? Where are you, mentally? How would you describe your “head space”? What or who is taking up the majority of your “head space”? How can you lean in to the presence of the Holy Spirit wherever you are right now?
There are many spaces we have not been allowed to occupy during this time of quarantine, including places of worship. Where can you see the benefits of decentralizing ministry, moving out from a building and into our homes and neighborhoods? How can you be a part of this outward, incarnational movement?
IV. Honor each other’s UNITY
Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; I will say to the north, “Give them up,” and to the south, “Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth— everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Jesus prayed that we would be one just as he and the Father are one. The Spirit of Christ unites us all together as one family. We are adopted daughters and sons of the Father, sisters and brothers with Jesus and with one another. The family of God is made up of a diversity of people, gifts, stories, passions and possibilities. We celebrate the beautiful diversity of God’s family. We commit to listen and learn from others, to work for the good of the communities we live in and to pray for God’s peace throughout the world as we point, in work and word, to the coming Kingdom of God.
We experience a great deal of division and conflict in our lives today. The antidote to conflict is connection. Where there is connection, there is compassion. Compassion leads to reconciliation. Reconciliation leads to unity. How is God inviting you to be reconciled? Who is God calling you to connect with, in the unifying power of the Spirit of Christ? Who is God nudging you towards in love?
1 John 4:18 says “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” Imagine if the family of God lived fearlessly! Where would God call us to go? Who would God call us to love? How would you live differently, if you lived fearlessly?
Henri Nouwen writes in Life of the Beloved, “Claiming your own blessedness always leads to a deep desire to bless others.” The calling of all Christ centered communities is to bless others as we have been blessed and to love others as we have been loved. While we may go about this good work in different ways at different times, the mission never changes. While COVID-19 has changed a lot of things in our lives and in our world, it hasn’t changed who God is calling us to be. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
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