A Scripture study from Caring, part four of four.

Love isn’t easy, especially when the entire world is being asked to isolate themselves due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is no secret that the global crisis which ensued from this virus threw a wrench into the plans and function of millions of churches. Why? Because churches gather. This is how they love one another and edify. 

Yet, love is a command from God. It defines his church. When love is hard, but then it becomes even harder due to social isolation, how do we proceed? Something that already necessitates work, energy, sacrifice, devotion, commitment and perseverance has suddenly become more glaringly necessary during the COVID-19 era and for the generations to come.  

Behind the scenes: Love matters

In his last intimate moment with his disciples, Jesus pulled no punches in displaying how much self-giving love mattered to him and to his kingdom. Alone, fellowshipping with the original group that would spring on to become the church, Jesus gave the command to love. This, following a display of love in washing their feet. 

Jesus said in John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

Love is faithful and benevolent self-giving to a person. In the Bible, love is the central attribute of God, the primary fruit of the followers of God, and the defining characteristic of the kingdom of God announced in Jesus. Jesus commands it. Love matters—a lot. This is a calling for all Christians. No matter your vocation or skill sets. No matter which denomination you prefer. All are called to love, because Jesus commands the church to love (and this will reveal who are his disciples). 

An important note to consider here is the definition of what it means to be the “church.” The early church has been well studied and scholars know one thing for sure about its early success. It succeeded exponentially because the church expressed love practically and powerfully. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a supernaturally loving community where everyone has your back? 

Back then, the poor flocked to the church. The Roman soldiers joined in the thousands. Even the intellectuals couldn’t resist it. In this fledgling movement one could find what everyone is always looking for but what the world doesn’t offer (without something in return): love.

Thus, the church is composed of those who are called out to love like Jesus. This kind of love will draw the masses. Nothing is more appealing than the love of God. But to what extent do we love?

Beyond the surface: How you love matters

Read what Scripture says in Galatians 5:6.

Forget the religious stuff. Our faith must express itself in love. How love is expressed matters. As we reflect on the moment Jesus washed his disciples’ feet in the upper room, it should be noted that this was no sanitary or prestigious affair (just in case you were wondering). Washing feet was, as it sounds, an act of total humility and certainly not an exercise for the kingly. Yet, Jesus went there. He stooped down, kneeled before his own students, and exemplified love in the smelliest way. 

Also, keep in mind that Jesus could have exemplified love in many other ways, but he chose this version. Walking in sandals on the dusty, dirty roads of Israel during the first century made it imperative that the traveler’s feet be washed before a communal meal since people reclined at the table and feet were exposed. 

The washing of the feet, though, was the job of a servant, not the Messiah. So when the Anointed One, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, takes the position of a servant in an act of love, there is a lesson to be learned. This is how Jesus chose to show his love. Furthermore, he went to the cross to express God’s love for all people. If “how” Jesus expressed love mattered then, we certainly should review “how” we express our love for others today.

Reflect on that: 

  • What are some unique ways to express love toward others during the COVID-19 era?
  • In which ways has social distancing positively or negatively affected your ability to express love the way you prefer?
  • How do we express love going forward?

Beyond the surface: Who you love matters

Read what Scripture says in Matthew 5:43-48.

As a Christian, it can be easy to play the role and love only those who can reciprocate your actions. Furthermore, it can be very tempting to love others only for applause. During the age of COVID-19, it may have been (or continue to be) a challenge to love those outside of your close circle of friends whom you have regular contact with via social media. Meanwhile, there are individuals and families living on the streets, many of whom have been socially isolated for years. 

Whether it’s the homeless, the outcasts of society, the prisoners, or especially certain people online—who you love matters. We are called to love indiscriminately. So let us be like Jesus and love everyone. Such love will shine beyond the barriers of any pandemic or disaster.

Between the lines

If you’re like me, and you’re hoping for some concrete ideas on how to fulfill the calling to love others during this wild chapter in history, here are three ways you can respond:

Lift the broken, enlarge the small and favor the weak. 

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these”(Matt. 19:14).

Have patience with each other.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other (Col. 3:12-13).

Be generous.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts… (Acts 2:44-46)

May we be a church that responds to the calling to love. You might be surprised what kind of miracles you’ll see when you do.

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