And our first instinct is to do what everyone else is doing. To be afraid. To watch too much news. To hibernate or hustle to the store. To hoard toilet paper.
This is a dark time, after all. An uncertain time. Businesses are closing their doors. Churches are cancelling services or moving online. This pandemic is undoubtedly stretching the already-frayed fabric of our nation, and leaders are doing their best to navigate the storm.
Still, we, as Christians, have a great opportunity. We have a prodigious responsibility unlike any other time in recent years to be outwardly focused. To “let your light shine,” as Matthew 5:15-16 tells us to do.
In this crisis, we cannot sit back in complacency expecting the fearful masses to flock to local Christian establishments as they did after the threat of 9/11. That is now considered unsafe. We also cannot lean on our pastors to tend to all the needs of the elderly, to comfort the anxious, to shine “light” into the darkness.
No, we must do it.
We must, one by one, choose to be that light, to reach out and to truly love those around us with the deep, deep love of Jesus.
But how do we do this? How can we practically show Jesus’ love while still keeping ourselves, our families and those around us safe?
Here are ten practical ways we can be a “light” while still practicing common sense and abiding by the social-distancing wisdom of medical experts. These ten things are mere suggestions, and the majority of them can be done within the security of your own home. Lean into the Holy Spirit, however, and let Him guide you. But whatever you do, do something.
The time to act is now.
1. For the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, give them a call. Listen to them, laugh with them. Laughter can truly be great medicine. If you know them personally (and you are young and healthy), offer to deliver their groceries. No human contact is needed. You can simply pick up the groceries and leave them on their porch for them to take inside.
2. For your neighbors, write a note introducing yourself and put it in the mailboxes of the homes or apartments around you. In the note, tell your neighbors you’re a Christian and offer to pray for them or to provide whatever support you feel that you can to meet their needs. Also, don’t forget to include your contact info, so they can respond.
3. For service workers, thank them profusely, every person you encounter — the mail carrier, the plumber, the cashier at the grocery store, the Starbucks drive-thru barista, the security guard. They are people too. Encourage them. Let them know you see them and see how hard they are trying to do their jobs in the midst of what may seem like chaos at times.
4. For a single mother or low-income family, offer to help with their childcare needs. Have a weeknight pizza meal delivered. Order a box of diapers. Leave a puzzle or board game at their front door. Every little bit helps, and the reality that they aren’t alone can help even more.
5. For a small business near you, buy a gift card or two that can be redeemed later on a birthday, for your anniversary, or even for Christmas presents to relatives and friends. Buy directly from the business online or by calling (rather than through a secondary source) to really make a difference, and if you can, make sure to encourage the employee, manager, or owner by telling them you care.
6. For medical professionals, send a text and let them know you support them as they stand on the frontlines of this fight. Remember to encourage their family members too who may be waiting anxiously at home. Offer to mow their lawn or wash their car. To help with other maintenance needs. Most of all, just make sure they don’t feel alone. If you’re concerned, you can be sure they’re even more concerned, especially about what they could be bringing home to their families. So be sensitive and show them love.
7. For out-of-school children, if your child’s class has a private email chain or some other way of electronically connecting, send out a message to the other students’ parents of that class offering to provide a PB & J sack lunch once a week left on your porch for any child who might want or need it for whatever reason. If that seems too invasive or unsafe, consider leaving some non-perishable, prepackaged snacks that kids can come and take. Just make sure you remember parents and children alike want dignity. No parent will willingly admit they’re struggling to feed their child. They might, however, accept a gesture like this one.
8. For the homeless and needy, take an extra sack of groceries, soap, blankets, or clothes to your local food bank or homeless shelter. Food banks will likely be overrun with those who need help, and they depend heavily upon donations from others to stay stocked with provision and supplies.
9. If you can and are healthy, donate blood. Those who are seriously sick often need invasive medical treatments, and those treatments can include extra pints of blood. Even a single pint could help save a life, so consider finding a local donation bank and becoming a volunteer blood donor.
10. Last of all, pray. This is probably the greatest thing you can do. Pray that God will show you creative ways in which you personally can love and serve those around you while still keeping you and your family safe. Pray for those who are anxious, pray for those who are struggling financially, pray for your pastors, pray for your civic leaders, and pray for those who may be sick. Pray often but also be willing to tell others you are praying for them too.
This is a time not to judge or criticize, to hoard or unreasonably hide (of course, follow social distancing!). Rather, it is a time to reach out to one person at a time. It is a time to serve and show compassion. To be moved with compassion, in fact, as Jesus was when He saw a crowd “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).
We have an opportunity to let our faith shine right now, to live the gospel even from within the walls of our own homes, so let’s not waste it.
Instead let’s all choose to give lavishly that life-changing hope Jesus’ light abundantly brings.
Ginger McPherson is a college professor turned stay-at-home mom of three. She has a Ph.D. in English from Baylor University. She is also a pastor's wife, Bible teacher, and devotional writer at https://www.glmcpherson.com/ She currently resides in Oklahoma where her husband serves as the Minister of Discipleship at First Baptist Church of Tulsa.