Love in the Time of Corona

Devotional for Saturday, March 14

John 13:35: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

We talk a lot about love in church, of course, and in a healthy church we will always experience love. Love is part and parcel of the experience of the Holy Spirit, the great benefit of having God’s presence among us as we gather in fellowship.

But what about when we cannot be together? What about times like now, when a microscopic virus with the numerically precise name of COVID-19 comes between us?

Well, I would suggest we start taking a common farewell we hear, “Stay in touch,” very seriously, even as we stay out of range of each other’s touch. And we are blessed with more ways to stay in touch than civilization has ever known. We just have to be truly deliberate about our outreach to one another in church, and to the people around us who may desperately be needing community.

Setting pen to paper is old-fashioned, a form of retro caring, but you would be surprised at the difference a little note can make in another person’s life. I suspect it’s still often perceived as the most caring kind of communication—writing a letter takes time, concentration and thoughtfulness.

I’ll not get into the details of the elaborate 12th-century story of Abelard and Heloise, although if you’re a romantic and stuck at home, you might want to read up on their love and their long-term separation, which resulted in a collection of letters sent one to the other.

Wrote Heloise: “If the portraits of our absent friends are pleasant to us, which renew our memory of them and relieve our regret for their absence by a false and empty consolation, how much more pleasant are letters which bring us the written characters of the absent friend.”

Most of us will be more likely to use our keyboards to send e-mails or texts, and of course, it’s wonderful to hear a friend’s voice on the phone when we are separated. With video chat, we can even see each other’s faces during times of separation.

Our choice of media doesn’t matter so much as the deliberate decision to reach out to one another. During these next few weeks, who is that going to be?

A church friend you’ve not seen in awhile?

Someone you know who struggles with illness?

Someone who always gives you joy, who uplifts your soul?

Someone with a listening ear? Someone you know who needs a listening ear?

A neighbor who may have become isolated?

A person with whom you’ve had a grievous misunderstanding?

Let’s commit ourselves to making good use of our time apart.

Lord, as we close our eyes to pray, show us the faces of the people you need us to write or call. Amen.