God’s People in COVID
Written by Elder David Leong
“And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:11).
Jesus’ call to “share life” as a reflection of God the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit has not changed, for He has made us in the image of the Godhead who is social. Deep down in each of us, we are meant for this stuff. In fact, God’s plan from the very beginning was to unite all things in Christ. (Eph. 1:10). Thus, to resist community is to deny a basic truth about our own humanity. But then, how do you “share life”? How do you be community?
While it is true that we don’t need to physically go to church to be Christian, we are reminded not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Heb. 10:25) in order to stir up one another to love and good works and to encourage one another as we see the Day drawing nearer. When God formed Israel, He made them a visible, physical nation and gave them the obligation to worship Him corporately as His chosen people. When we are in Christ, we are called to participate in koinonia and to fellowship with other Christians. There is something about being physically with one another that cannot be replaced by just doing live-streaming or zoom from homes week after week.
When we physically gather and worship, it inspires and shapes our expectations of how we see God at work in the wider world and it helps to widen our imaginations to be continually reshaped by the central truths of the Christian story. Such truths include the relationships between answered prayer and the seeming silence of God; the tension of hope and lament.
Our physical gathering together can help us continually develop a different perspective on our different situations. When we physically meet once a week after being the dispersed people of God on the other six days, we come with stories to tell of where we have been, of concerns for people and situations that we want to share with the family of God’s people and the need for a renewed reorientation of our lives back into God’s bigger story. Of course, authenticity is critical. But if we are prepared to be vulnerable and share candidly, it will be immensely liberating and vital for our spiritual and mental health.
In this extended season of COVID-19 restrictions and having only limited physical church, there is undoubtedly a lot of disorientation that puts us all in a strange uncharted territory. To me, there is something compelling about embodied physical presence that zoom or live-streaming cannot adequately replace. So, as COVID restrictions are gradually lifted, let’s be looking forward to meeting up as God’s people rather than just be content with being physically-distanced followers of Jesus.