It would be easy, even understandable, for people to ignore their neighbors and the broader community, and be consumed by self-preservation during this COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, I have been encouraged by the number of people who are taking seriously the call of Christians to love God and love our neighbors, regardless of circumstances. We are getting a lot of questions about how to serve and be engaged in healthy and caring ways. So, we thought it would be helpful to share some specific ways that we can care well for our neighbors while still following the CDC, federal government, and state government recommendations.
For the last several years, the ServeRDU team has held Neighboring 101 workshops. As a part of this workshop, we highlight that we believe God’s expectation for his people throughout history has been that they would care for the poor and marginalized. Almost every time that God introduces himself in the Old Testament, he identifies himself with the vulnerable, as in Psalm 146 and Deuteronomy 10. God seems to go out of his way to say that he is the all-powerful, great, mighty, maker of everything and
the defender of the fatherless and widow, who also loves the foreigner and prisoner. So, when God’s people, because of our love for him, live lives marked by humility, identify with the poor and marginalized, pursue justice, and seek peace, we are reflecting his character. Throughout history, the church was known for caring for the poor and marginalized at a great cost to themselves. The Roman Emperor Julian was recorded in the fourth century saying,
[The Christian cause] has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans [i.e. Christians] care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.
It has only been in the last century that many churches and Christians have lost their identity as people who uphold the cause of the poor. However, we believe that this ought to be a defining characteristic of God’s people during this pandemic. We want our community to wonder why we would care so well not only for our church family but also for the poor and marginalized in our community. When we start thinking about serving our neighbors during this time, we need to realize that it will be a fluid and dynamic process that may change week to week or even day to day. Most of the ways that we will care for our neighbors will be organic rather than organized. Because of the nature of this crisis, most non-profits and ministries don’t have volunteer opportunities available. So, we need to be willing to take principles and apply them to our existing relationships. We also need to remember that the poor and vulnerable will experience the impact of this pandemic long after quarantines and social distancing recommendations are lifted. We need to be committed to long-term care and concern, and the ServeRDU team is here to help you do that.
Ways to Care
Taking into account the social limitations that are being recommended in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (which we should follow), here are some ways we suggest you can be proactive in caring for those who have been and will be disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus.
- Visit the Coronavirus: How to Care page on the Summit’s website for a list of ways that our church is encouraging members to respond. Most of these will not be volunteer opportunities but ways in which we can donate (both financially and goods) to those who are on the ground meeting the needs of people most directly impacted. Your campus’ social media pages will also give you ways to respond that may be more localized to your campus' community.
- Be intentional in reaching out to people in your neighborhood who are at heightened risk (55+ years old, immuno-compromised, healthcare workers) and those for whom the social restrictions are having a significant impact (single parents, hourly-wage workers, those unable to stay home from work). Hopefully you already know your neighbors who fall into these categories, but if you don’t, the Nextdoor app is a great way to let the people in your neighborhood know you are willing to help.
- Contact your local schools, restaurants, small businesses you frequent, and even your employer to inquire about how you can help families and workers who will be more deeply impacted economically by COVID-19. As we settle in to this new normal of social distancing, hourly workers and businesses that rely on foot traffic will continue to be some of the most severely impacted as shifts are eliminated and layoffs occur.
This is an unprecedented situation, and it will require us all to think creatively about how we can continue to live out our God-given charge to love our neighbors during this time.
Ways to PrayPray for Our Leaders | 1 Timothy 2:1–2
Pray that they would have wisdom during this crisis. Pray that God’s will would be done in the decisions they make. Pray that God would burden them with care for the most vulnerable and marginalized. Pray for our:
Pray for a Movement of the Holy Spirit | Acts 4:32–34
- Government leaders.
- Healthcare leaders.
- Business leaders.
- Community leaders.
The book of Acts gives us a picture of the impact an intense movement of the Holy Spirit has on a community. In the wake of Pentecost, there were several things that marked the early church: oneness, generosity, and a meeting of all needs. Pray that the church would be filled with the Holy Spirit and that we would be marked by the same qualities.Pray for Healing | James 5:13–18
The book of James calls us to pray for healing in times of sickness. Whether we are sick from the effects of sin or disease that sin has brought into our world, God offers us healing. It is not our concern whether he does it through medicine or his supernatural power. So, let us pray that God would bring healing for those suffering here and around the world.Pray for the Most Vulnerable in Our Community | Matthew 25:31–46
Throughout the Scriptures, God’s heart for the vulnerable and marginalized is clear. Here, Jesus clearly tells us that the mark of a true believer is one who cares for the poor and the marginalized. Let us pray that, through his church and our communities, God's people will care for the vulnerable and the marginalized.Pray That Many Would Find the Hope That Only the Gospel Can Give | Philippians 4:4–7 and 1 Peter 2:12; 3:15
As believers, we have a hope that is beyond this life. We have an all-powerful and perfectly loving Father who cares for us. This hope gives us confidence in uncertain times. It is the hope that the world needs. We want to care and love as people who have this great hope, but our actions can never replace the hope that Christ alone can bring to one’s life. Pray that through this time many would come to know the hope and peace that can only come from the good news of Jesus Christ.