The events of recent days have thrown all of us into unchartered territory. With schools, restaurants, libraries, events, and even churches suspending normal operations, our lives have been disrupted in ways large and small. The impact is real, and depending on how long this lasts, it has the potential to deepen even further.
How should God’s people respond?
In Acts 10:38, in the midst of his sermon to Cornelius and his household, Peter tells us that Jesus “went about doing good.”
That’s an interesting—and compelling—description. Too often, I think we view Jesus’ ministry exclusively through the lens of spiritual redemption. Yes, that was His main point and purpose in coming to earth, but He underlined His concern for our spiritual well-being by meeting countless physical needs. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, raised the dead, and washed dirty feet. He mourned alongside Mary and Martha and cooked fish for hungry disciples. He was concerned about every dimension of the well-being of those around Him.
Likewise, the early church acted with radical self-sacrifice to help those with needs. The idea that Christians should only be concerned with the spiritual well-being of others isn’t found in Scripture. Yes, we should be concerned for the lost, but like Jesus, we can go about doing good—spiritually and materially. Sometimes helping others in the material realm will be the door God uses to allow us to minister spiritually.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers about how the church can serve our communities in a time of pandemic. There are cautions to be observed, to be sure—both for our own safety, and for the safety of those we would help. But even with those cautions, we can be alert to opportunities to meet needs around us. And when we do, we’ll not only be a blessing to our communities, we’ll be following in the footsteps of Jesus.
How can we serve? That’s a conversation my wife and I been having recently. We’ve made ourselves available to help one of our next-door neighbors with errands. He’s an older fellow believer who lives with a compromised immune system. Why should he go out to the store when he has young(er), healthy neighbors who can do it for him? I’ve also told our pastor that we’re available to help out other church members if there’s a need for a meal delivered or groceries picked up.
We’re also planning to assist my elderly grandparents in any way we can. My grandmother has been declining mentally for the past several years to the point that she’s become very difficult for my grandfather to care for. It used to be a relief to him to be able to get both of them out of the house a few times each week to meet friends or family at a restaurant for dinner. With all restaurants closed, he not only has lost that diversion, he also has the added burden of extra cooking. We plan to help ease that burden as we’re able.
These are small things, perhaps, but if we all take care of our own small acts of kindness toward those around us, perhaps we can lessen the burden of the coming weeks or months. Even a cup of cold water given in Jesus’ name is worthy of notice in God’s eyes.
Many families may also be facing financial hardships as the economic fallout builds. Perhaps there’s a single mom near you who just lost her job and doesn’t know how she’ll cover her bills. Or maybe there’s a small business owner who wants to keep his doors open after all of this is over but can’t pay the rent when he doesn’t have any customers due to the virtual shutdown. If God has given you the financial means to bless others, now would be a great time to look around to see who needs help. Ask your pastor, friends, or neighbors if they know of anyone who’s been hit hard and see what you can do.
I don’t know what additional opportunities we may have to serve others in the coming days. We all have our own families to think about and provide for, but I certainly want to be alert to opportunities as God brings them along. I challenge you to do the same.
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