Isolation and Questions about Mission – Part 1
It all happened so fast. One week were working out how to adjust our normal Sunday church services in response to the growing threat of the covid-19 virus. A week later church services and events were banned across the country. Churches have had to devise plans to continue to worship together and connect with one another while separated, including taking their services and events online.
So many changes and challenges. Where does that leave the mission of the church?
The mission of the church is so grand: to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). How can we do this when we are confined to our homes? How can we “go” when we need to be keeping our distance? Do we put our mission on hold? Do we just survive for now, waiting for all this to be over?
It is important to remember that Jesus did not give the church it’s mission to “go and make disciples” when the church had buildings, Sunday services, programs and events. What did the church have? The church had love for the risen Jesus Christ. And this love, that came from God himself, is at the heart of the church’s mission.
Before we think about how our mission might look in times of isolation (that will be Part 2), let’s focus on the love that characterises the church on mission.
Love for Jesus
There is no greater calling for humanity than to love God. Nor is their anything so demanding. We are to love God with our whole being. It is a calling that comes with an example. Jesus demonstrated the greatest of loves in his sacrificial death on the cross, where he died for our sins (Rom 5:8).
The mission of the church grows out of our love and devotion to God. As we seek him with our whole being, and respond to his love with love, the mission of God beings in us.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment”
How does the mission of the church look in times of isolation? Exactly as it does at any other moment. At its heart, our mission comes from our growing love for God.
Love for One Another
We are the people of God. His love defines us. A growing love for one another is the obvious mark of the church. And we are being called into something wonderful – a community of people whose love for one another looks like Jesus’ love for us.
“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.”
The church that loves one another with Christ-like sacrifice looks like Christ. And the world around us gets it. Christ-like sacrifice does not require buildings, Sunday services, or other events (even outreach events).
For now, we might miss the Sunday services and having a place to meet. But these are things that come and go (some churches in the world know this more keenly than we do). Isolation and distancing measures must not and cannot undermine the love of God that is in us and flows out to one another. Maybe, when things go back to normal (whatever that new normal might be), we will find our love for one another has grown. And we will find the world looking on and understanding – we belong to Christ.
Love for Our Neighbour
The greatest commandment is to love God. The second is to love our neighbour.
“And the second [commandment] is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.”
Jesus uses the parable of the Good Samaritan to emphasis that love for our neighbour is compassionate, risky, costly and right. The opportunities to love our neighbour in these days of isolation are many. Opportunities to show compassion and do what is right.
There will be a Part 2 to this topic of mission in isolation in coming weeks. In the meantime, may the love of God fill you and flow out of your into the scattered church and into this suffering world.