“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 ESV).
After nearly four months of the most unprecedented world events any of us has ever experienced, we are, Lord willing, continuing to make our way out of this pandemic. I plan to go back to devoting these articles in the Good News to sharing truths that will strengthen our faith and prepare us to give an answer for the hope we have within us. But before I move away from sharing my thoughts on living through all the bizarre events that have taken place since the onset of the coronavirus, I think it’s important to pause and consider some of the lessons we may have learned during this time of such great unrest and uncertainty.
In speaking with members of Cross Community Church, I have heard many different responses when I ask them what lessons they have learned during this pandemic. For some, it was a vivid demonstration that we are not in control of our lives, no matter how disciplined and determined we are with our daily routines, weekly schedules and expected outcomes. For others, the coronavirus has issued a grim reminder that life in a fallen world is fragile. Still others have told me that being forced to stay at home caused them to rediscover the importance of regular quiet times with the Lord.
Relationships are important
Yet the most common response by far that I have heard from members of our congregation is that recent events have taught them that relationships are more important than anything else this world has to offer. The reason so many of us feel this way, of course, is because of the fact that, as image-bearers of God, we are created for community. As I often say from the pulpit, we were saved individually, to be sure, but we are saved to community.
From eternity past, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have existed in perfect community with each other. This is the doctrine of the Trinity, which actually means that God IS community: one God, three persons, living, thinking and acting together in perfect unity. Regardless of how our personality is hardwired (extrovert, introvert, socially adept or awkward), deep down inside the very fiber of our being we long to be in relationship with others, and this strange, unsettling time of social distancing and the general shut-down of society has made this abundantly clear to us.
There is a reason that the Scriptures have so many “one another” statements, ranging from “love one another” (Romans 12:10) to “comfort one another” (2 Corinthians 13:11) to “encourage one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) to the command we see in today’s verse: to “bear one another’s burdens.” The reason is that we are to create a loving, harmonious, mutually supportive, Christlike community — a reflection of the nature of our God.
Creating community was something we have all had to learn how to do from a distance during these past few months. Virtually overnight, we were cut off from a significant measure of interaction when this pandemic swept across the globe. “Community” was abruptly transformed from personal to virtual, as we stayed connected via the Internet and our phones. We saw drive-by birthdays, Zoom meetings and virtual classrooms. Our kids saw proms and athletic events cancelled; one of life’s greatest experiences, the graduation celebration, was also wiped away by COVID, including the one I was scheduled to participate in on May 15, to receive my Doctorate from Knox Theological Seminary.
Community is worth the effort
And yet, through all this social distancing, I believe we have all grown closer. We are closer to understanding what matters most in life, and it is not what we might have thought it was before this lockdown. Community, as flawed as it will always be because it is made up of broken people, is worth the effort, despite the misunderstanding and heartache — some wag might say heartburn — that inevitably comes with it. Like two porcupines huddled together on a frigid night, the closer we get to each other, the more we get pricked . . . but apart from one another, we will freeze to death. The Lord said that it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18); each of us needs each other!
Perhaps now, as we begin to regather in whatever communities we belong to, we will be a little bit more patient, more quick to be kind and more compassionate with one another, knowing now what life looks like without each other. And as we draw closer to one another, let us never forget to draw closer to Jesus Christ, who loved us enough to die for us, who has sustained us throughout this pandemic, and who is even now sustaining all things through the power of His word (Hebrews 1:3).
If this pandemic and the violence and vitriol that have erupted across the nation in recent weeks have rekindled our need to draw near to Christ and present all our requests to Him, it will all have been worth it. Truly God is working all things for the good of those who love Him and He who began this good work has promised to complete it!
You are in my prayers and in my heart.
Purpose and Passion,
Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.