How to Love Your Neighbor During a Pandemic
Written by Terry S. Lu, Esq.
We are living in difficult financial times. Businesses are struggling, many workers have had their hours and paychecks cut, and others have been furloughed or laid off completely. We are told the economy might not rebound quickly, or at all, and the financial impact of COVID-19 may extend far into the future. Many of our churches are also struggling financially. Mortgages and payroll commitments threaten to exhaust church resources simultaneously as congregants possess far fewer resources with which to support their local congregations. People everywhere are trying to predict which common items will be the next to suddenly disappear from store shelves. Many have turned their homes into quarantine bunkers, filled to the brim with assorted items we cannot imagine--or simply fear the possibility of--living without.
Adrift in an ocean of uncertainty, we are surrounded by the siren’s song of self-preservation.
Yet those who bind their hearts with the Word of the Lord will surely find that His instructions and promises will hold them fast. This is not the first time the people of God and the Church has faced overwhelming financial stress. In 2 Corinthians 8, the Apostle Paul writes warmly about the generosity of the Macedonian churches in sending financial support to the persecuted and impoverished church in Jerusalem. By some accounts, the Jerusalem church faced heavy religious persecution while in the middle of a severe famine stretching throughout Judea. The Apostle Paul’s pleas for financial support on behalf of the Jerusalem church were in response to a critical need.
But life was not easy for the other churches. The churches in Macedonia likely faced intense religious persecution of their own. And Paul additionally described their churches as “very poor.” Yet they were “also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.” They not only gave in response to the needs of their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem, they far exceeded Paul’s expectations regarding their ability to provide financial support to others who were struggling.
How can we cultivate such generosity in times of scarcity? It is a question that my church has pondered these past several months.
Uptown Church is a young church. We originally launched in October 2018. We have meager resources and we are not particularly large. Our pastor is our only paid staff member and we don’t own the building we meet in. Yet we continue to be challenged by the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to share freely with those in need as we reflect on the “generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.” A people committed to emptying itself in ministry to others follows the example of Christ, who emptied himself upon the cross.
While we are shut in and struggling, it somehow becomes increasingly important to continue looking outward.
To that end, we have done our best to identify ministry opportunities within our neighborhood. Church members have made phone calls to anyone seeking conversation and prayer. Some have assembled provision packages for distribution to those running low on food supplies. Some have delivered coffee to a local ER and a health clinic. Some have packed lunches and snacks for distribution to homeless populations within our area. A few tents were given away to those without shelter. A box of encouraging notes and fun activities was dropped off at a local psychiatric rehabilitation facility that has been on lock-down for months. And many reusable masks have been constructed, procured, and distributed to those in need.
The needs are many and ever changing. But we have tried to return, time and time again, to two enduring principles: (1) to identify those who have needs surpassing even our own; and (2) to empty ourselves to meet those needs as followers of Christ.
How can you best love your neighbor during this time?
Terry is the coordinator responsible for small groups at Uptown Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need help, can help, or can donate during these difficult times, please check out our “Neighboring Through Corona” page at: https://uptowncov.org/corona.