Most of us are aware that the great command is to “love God” with all one’s heart, soul, and might. We are probably most familiar with this command from Matthew 22:37-38 “And he said to him, 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 (or one of the parallel accounts – Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27).
We are probably also well aware of this directive to love God with all of one’s being from Deuteronomy 6:5 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Are we aware that this precept is given at least five more times in Deuteronomy (Deut. 10:12; 11;1, 13; 13:3; 30:6) and twice in the book of Joshua (Josh. 22:5; 23:11)?
According to Jesus, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). This command is initially found in God’s covenant with Israel (Leviticus 19:18, you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD). It also occurs two more times in Matthew’s Gospel (Mt. 5:43; 19:19), twice in Paul’s writings (Romans 13:9-10; Galatians 5:14) and James 2:8. In other words, loving one’s neighbors is a significant biblical teaching.
As medical and governmental officials call on people to practice “social distancing” and banning various size groups, a primary theological consideration for the people of God is the love of neighbor. Care for others should be determining many of our responses.
This consideration of loving others is changing the way we interact. Thom Rainer wrote this, “Social distancing will change permanently some of the traditions in many churches. Stand and greet is gone and will not return in most churches. Church huggers will no longer be tolerated. Even handshakes will be minimized.” The “holy handshake” being replaced by the “holy wave” or “holy elbow bump.” People may continue to look for more space between them on others in the auditorium even after the crisis is passed (the 200 capacity worship center may reach its social distancing capacity at 120).
We need to practice the things during this time that protect the most susceptible people to the virus.
One positive thing from all of this for me is that it is pushing me (and others) more into the digital age. I am attempting to learn how to produce on-line streaming, video blogs, etc. I hope to have some things up and running in a couple of weeks, including streaming our worship assembly and having a study available with new content each week.