Who Is My Neighbor in a Time of Social Distancing?
Published on: 07-01-2020
Social distancing and lockdowns of entire communities have profoundly affected the mundane routines of work and school to what we do in our free time, how we worship, where we travel (or not!), and what we do as a global community.
They have insinuated themselves into the sacred as well. Church services have been canceled, and access to sacred sites has been restricted. These restrictions have challenged personal freedom and governance. Country borders are closed, planes are grounded, ships cannot dock, and trains have come to a standstill.
Instead of drawing together as we naturally crave in a time of crisis, fear of contracting the disease from others pushes us apart. The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed thousands of lives around the world, then robbed their loved ones of a funeral to mourn them.
A WAKE-UP CALL
The pandemic has been a wakeup call. Science, money, technology, and government have failed to prevent COVID-19. While medicine can manage symptoms, it cannot cure the disease. The things that absorb our time and thoughts have been affected: school, work, social routines, entertainment, shopping, and freedom of movement and association. Our very health and lives are at stake. When everything is stripped away, we’re confronted with who and what really matters.
We’ve had to find new ways to learn and work, to collaborate and care for the aged and vulnerable in our families and communities. The situation challenged us to ask again of Christ, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29).
In the parable of the good Samaritan, the first one to stumble upon the half-dead victim kept his distance and passed by on the other side. The second also kept social distance. Both these men had protocols to follow, consistent with their responsibilities to society. With no thought for his own safety, the unlikely hero responded out of compassion. And when he had done all he could in the time he had, he entrusted the man in need to an innkeeper to continue his care with the promise that he would settle any balance upon his return.¹
The answer to the question “Who is my neighbor?” will be found in a myriad of ways. Every problem and challenge is a call to creative ministry. Every need is an opportunity to respond. Everyone can do something. God has entrusted our neighbors into our care—whether they be next door or a mouse click away. God has given us resources for the task—talents, creativity, and His Spirit.
And what creativity we have seen! Delivering or donating food for seniors and those in need despite being in lockdown;² making videos to uphold faith,³ to affirm isolated grandparents,⁴ or to help children;⁵ speaking out against racism; crafting online worship and prayer meetings; sewing colorful face masks; and so much more. Creativity flourishes best under constraints. No effort is wasted when we carry out His bidding.
When Christ returns—sooner than any might suppose—we can be sure that He will find His own creative ways to settle any outstanding balances.
¹ Raul Lozano, “The Innkeeper, My Teacher,” presented at the Regional Summit on Adventist Education for NSD, SPD, SSD, and SUD, Bangkok, Thailand, January 29, 2018.