Thinking Christianly About COVID-19

Is “Social Distancing” Really Loving My Neighbor?

Reflections from Carly Klynsma

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40

What does it mean to love our neighbor? While this is a good question for daily reflection, the world’s current state begs for a deeper and more creative reflection. This global pandemic is a new experience for everyone.

With that in mind, we are realizing that loving our neighbor looks a little different today than it did a few months ago. And if you’re anything like me, the whole idea of social distancing gives you the heebie-jeebies. People intentionally avoiding other people seems a little opposite to the idea of being there for one another.

But loving our neighbors doesn’t mean just caring for the people we know best. Scripture is clear that we as Christians are called to care for the poor, the orphaned, the widowed, and the foreigners within our lands. We are called to love everyone, and especially our vulnerable brothers and sisters.

In his article on how Christians should respond to COVID-19, David Beauchamp emphasizes this point. The Coronavirus puts our vulnerable neighbors at a higher state of risk than anyone else. He argues that the best thing we can do to love our neighbors in this time is to keep ourselves healthy and not transmit the disease to others who are less likely to heal from it. Keep yourself healthy by cancelling travel plans, staying at home, and practicing social distancing.

At this point, you’ve likely heard all of this advice already. And all this may still seem counterintuitive… to keep others safe, I have to care for myself? So the science says. But this view isn’t selfish. There have been and will continue to be personal sacrifices. I urge you to think of these as acts of radical, God-given love. I also encourage you to think creatively about other ways to love our neighbors. Take inventory of what you have to give, and give with a cheerful and loving heart. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Offer to pick up and deliver groceries to someone’s driveway
  • Pay for a food subscription service for someone (ex. Hello Fresh)
  • Create a ridiculous music video to send some laughter and entertainment
  • Offer virtual tutoring services to parents with kids in schools

Perhaps one of these works for you, and perhaps you have gifts in other areas. This isn’t a list of things you must do, but rather something to get you started. What do you have to give? Think about how the Lord has gifted you and ask a friend to help! Sometimes they know us better than we do.

Keep in mind the goal of loving our neighbor with the love the Lord has so freely given us. While social distancing and staying at home may not be your favorite way to communicate love, consider that it could literally save your neighbor’s life.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

John 15:13

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