From time to time there are moments when the normal rules of community are set aside. They happen at times of great change, of crisis or celebration.
We experienced one of those moments eight years ago during the 2012 Olympics, when a festival of sport and community made it possible for even famously reticent Londoners to strike up conversation with complete strangers. The outbreak of coronavirus brings us to the other extreme. Social distancing is the name of the game.
The challenges of this climate aren’t new to London City Mission. In the 1840s and 50s, missionaries working in the most deprived quarters of London dealt with cholera epidemics, helping to improve sanitation, saving many lives and at the same time boldly sharing the gospel.
The mission of God to draw people to himself doesn’t stop in moments of crisis. The church as the hands and feet of Jesus in the world are still called to go, care, love, reassure - and through it all tell people of why, even in this moment, we have complete trust in Jesus.
The dawning realisation that we are facing a major health crisis has driven many to respond with self-preservation – emptying supermarket shelves with panic stockpiling of household goods. Self-preservation is a base human instinct, and is not in itself wrong. Every Christian should be taking wise precautions to care for themselves and those near to them.
Taking care of yourself is important, but we are called to live beyond taking care of ourselves. Our challenge is not to look to our own interests but to the interests of others. We can do this with confidence, not in fear.
If you are sick, the most loving and sensible thing you can do is to follow the government guidelines and to self-isolate.
If you, like me, are not a part of a more vulnerable group, now is not the time to use self-isolation as an excuse to hunker down into mere self-preservation so that you can binge-watch that show. Health permitting, #QuarantineandChill is not how I will honour and obey Jesus in this climate.
So here’s a challenge, and let’s keep it simple. Creative ways to serve don’t have to be complicated to be effective.
I’ve very recently moved with my family to a new neighbourhood, and we haven’t yet had a chance to introduce ourselves to our neighbours.
So this weekend I drafted a letter of introduction, taking the opportunity to say that we are ready to help getting groceries or any other practical task for anyone who is self-isolating.
Simple things such as contacting your neighbours and offering a helping hand to your pastor (who will surely be stretched with the practical response) can make all the difference.
Our hope rests in Jesus Christ, who is the giver of life and who has conquered the power of death. Let us be ready to shine our light before all men and be ready with gentleness and respect to give the reason for the hope we have.
Faith, hope and love are contagious too.
Please stand with us to shine the light of the gospel in London by donating a special gift today.