Let’s be people who can connect for fun and entertainment but also for processing the pain and fear we are all experiencing and share a hope that they can never lose no matter what hardships arise.
The past two weeks have changed so many things in our lives, but it has not changed what the Lord has called us to do. Our calling to love the Lord and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40) has not been put on hold during this time. Our methods may change, but our calling never does. So what does it look like to honor the Lord in caring for those around us?
First, as we begin considering how to bless others, we should also think about how to be generous and joyful in our giving (1 Timothy 6:17-19). Our motivation as believers comes from our relationship with the Lord and the blessings we have received from Him. Part of caring for our neighbors is taking time in our own lives to commune with the Lord and reflect on how He is caring for us. Caring for others many times comes with a sacrifice of some sort (time, finances, vulnerability) but we have been gifted those things from Christ. Even if we are financially poor, the Lord has blessed us in abundance with His promises. Let us give out of an overflow of His love that He has lavished on us. Let us also encourage one another in these efforts and fight comparison. Each of us has different work schedules, gifts, finances, and demands which makes blessing others look different for each of us. Each of us using what the Lord has given us as a collective Church brings glory to His kingdom (instead of our own)!
Below are four ways we can be a blessing to our neighbors:
- Pray for them
Prayer is the first one on my list because it is incredibly powerful and unfortunately, it is usually the last thing we think to do (speaking from experience). Throughout Jesus’ life, we see Him going to the Father in prayer for those around Him and He still intercedes for us to this day (Romans 8:34). What better way to love someone than to pray that the God of all gods would intersect their life and save them, heal them, comfort them, and give them hope! The Lord can do so much more for them than we can. Intercede on their behalf and ask our Father to do big things for them and in them. In those times of prayer, the Holy Spirit might reveal to you a way He wants to invite you in on His plans to help. The beauty is that we can do it anytime or anywhere – from our homes, on a walk as we pass people’s homes, or as we read about other states and countries! Finally, another way to bless people with prayer is to invite them into your practice of prayer. As you find it to be blessing you and others, ask them to join you!
- Connect with them
Jesus sought people out. He sought you out. We, especially during this time, have the opportunity to be the ones pursuing others. In individualistic societies, like the United States, so many people are already lonely. Quarantining only intensifies this. What a great time to invite others into a relationship with you or catch back up with old friends (while being physically distant). Please be respectful of our leaders and heed their warnings to keep a physical distance. One of the best ways to care for your neighbors is to not pass any illnesses to them and to stay healthy yourself. The two blog posts before this (by Robby Flack and Mickey Pitts) give us great ways to disciple from a distance and stay in contact with one another via technology. If you have never met your physical neighbors but want to check on them, leave a note on their front door. Some of us have a lot of extra time on our hands and some of us have been overloaded with work due to all the changes. The good news is that a connection can happen in a short time, even in a kind note at the end of an email to a coworker, or a smile and wave to a neighbor.
- Be a source of hope to them
Since the spreading of COVID-19, we have seen a lot of online entertainment industries booming. I am very grateful for Nextflix, Hulu, etc, but many times they can be used merely to distract ourselves from the fear, anxiety, and pain we are experiencing. What we really need is hope. Let us be the ones to help people through this time by introducing them to the ultimate hope found only in Christ Jesus. This can be intimidating because we know we might not have the answers to all their questions. Our responsibility is not to have all the answers but to introduce them to the one that does have all the answers… Jesus. Let’s be people who can connect for fun and entertainment but also for processing the pain and fear we are all experiencing and share a hope that they can never lose no matter what hardships arise.
- Practice creative hospitality
Many times we talk about those in the church that have the gift of hospitality, but all God’s children are called to be hospitable. It is something that can be learned and practiced by everyone! In the most simple terms, hospitality is being thoughtful and generous. Even if funds are tight right now, how can you be generous with your time, prayers, kindness? The Lord calls us to steward more than just our finances.
Here are a few creative examples of ways you can start being intentional in blessing your neighbors:
- Pray for others! As infuriating as it can be, some of us have more downtime than usual. Use it to bless others with your prayers. In America, we vastly underestimate the power of prayer. I speak from my own experience. What a blessing to be given extra time to spend in prayer alone and with others.
- Be intentional to communicate. In addition to texting, you can also utilize phone calls, Facetime, Zoom & WhatsApp to connect with friends, especially those that are living alone or less likely to see people. I am friends with a retired couple and we love to have tea together. We have spoken on the phone but are hoping to have FaceTime Afternoon Tea soon!
- Schedule your walks or bike rides to intersect with others around you so you can regularly say hello and have a conversation from a distance.
- Find fun ways to celebrate fun things in people’s lives like birthdays, engagements, new babies, etc! Maybe organize a car train or put fun signs in their yard.
- Instagram and Facebook can be breeding grounds for comparison and jealousy. Let’s be counter-cultural and use them to reach out and encourage others. (If these platforms are a place of temptation or struggle for you, please encourage people somewhere else. There are other options and it is not worth it.) Recently, there was an IG game where if someone responded to your story with fire then you reposted their best picture on your story. Add your own twist and write what you are most thankful for about that person.
- If you need to run to the store, check with those around you, especially those that are older, and see if you can grab something for them.
- Share a meal via Facetime. If you are feeling especially generous and have the means, order them some food from a local restaurant and have it delivered to their door.
- Share experiences.
- Send a gift card to a friend that has lost their job.
- Offer to care for a pet of someone in the medical field that is working extra long hours right now.
- Mow someone’s yard that is working overtime right now or unable to do it themselves.
- Leave a thank you note for your mail-person or tip your uber eats driver a little extra!
- Order from local restaurants.
- Support companies that are supporting local food drives, i.e. Agape North.
- Donate blood to the Red Cross as our nation is experiencing a shortage.
*You don’t have to do all of these. Start with one or two and please expand on this list!
As we begin to grow in this area, I encourage you to make blessing your neighbors a practice in your lives, not just something we do during a pandemic. I believe the Lord has put us in our neighborhoods and our cities for such a time as this and that we may share His love and His gospel with those around us that haven’t experienced Him yet.