Coronavirus and “One Anothering”

Text: Hebrews 10:19-25

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…” —Hebrews 10:24

In Italy, the entire country is on unprecedented lockdown due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. The northern regions are seeing a “tsunami of patients,” and according to one spokesperson, the healthcare system is “one step from collapse.” Their Prime Minister has called it Italy’s “darkest hour.” So far, Italy has more than 15,000 infection cases with over a thousand deaths—the most of any country outside of China.

Churches haven’t been able to assemble together in weeks. I have been speaking with some of our Italian friends and the situation is quite demoralizing, as well as panic inducing. Francesca and her husband, Victor, are the Breakaway Outreach Italia representatives in the Veneto region, organizing our local sports outreach camps over the last three years. Francesca’s voice quivered as she shared from the heart the anguish of being in forced isolation.

“We are missing, like crazy, going to church and giving hugs to one another; talking personally, supporting one another, and praying together. It’s horrible. But we have faith it’s not going to last forever. When you have that freedom taken away from you, wow, it’s tough; but it’s useful, especially if you are a believer. When this time will be over, we will give more importance to the right thing and less importance to things that are not really important.”

Her message was edifying to our community here in Tennessee. Our privilege of being able to worship together, support one another, and flesh out God’s mission together is something we should never take lightly. Having people in our corner is something we can often underappreciate, until we are going through a season of suffering. As my heart breaks for what my friends are facing in Italy, I look around at the brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I have the freedom of doing life and serving on mission together. I value that privilege! I love my tribe!

God’s Word admonishes us:

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” —Hebrews 10:23-25

The ecclesiological connection in this passage has a markedly deeper meaning than just surfacely attending a church assembly. It speaks of a shared spiritual intimacy entrenched in missional togetherness with others—think of the allegorical bond depicted in Tolkien’s “Fellowship of the Ring.” All of mythical Middle-Earth hangs in the balance of that fellowship’s faithfulness to their mission. More poignantly, ours is a fellowship of the one-anothers, with real eternal consequences attached to our gospel faithfulness.

There are over 60 “one another” commands in the New Testament that reveal God’s passion for this fellowship of the one-anothers: love one another (John 13:34), honor one another (Romans 12:10), build up one another (Romans 14:19), care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25), forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32). It’s quite clear: God has made us for “one-anothering.” We find two of them in Hebrews 10:24-25: “stir up one another” and “encourage one another.”

God didn’t wire us for isolation. That early church knew that they needed each other to carry out Christ’s mission in the world. My friends in Italy understand, perhaps now more than ever, how much they need one another. None of us were created to be independent, autonomous, or self-sufficient. We were made to live in humble dependency upon God and loving interdependency with others. As one writer described it, “Our lives were designed to be community projects.” Reflect on your need for this kind of missional community as you seek to abide in Him this week.

PRAYER

God, thank you for the privilege that comes to those who have been brought into a right relationship with you, through the redeeming blood of Jesus. Holy Spirit, help us to remember that our privilege comes with many interdependencies and responsibilities to our faith community. Teach us how to one-another well in light of your Word, in the power of your grace, for the sake of your gospel, and to the glory of your kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Questions for Reflection, Small Group or Family Discussion:

  1. Are you the kind of person who easily assimilates into community, or does your personality find it more challenging?
  2. Our modern culture lauds self-sufficiency and independence. In what “communal” ways has Jesus called his followers to be countercultural?
  3. Sometimes even our church cultures/models/structures can breed individual consumers over communities that share intimate life and mission together. In what ways might this be course-corrected?
  4. What privilege comes to those who are part of the “house of God” (Hebrews 10:22)? With that privilege comes responsibility. What kind of behavior should privileged Christ-followers exhibit toward one another (Hebrews 10:24-25)?
  5. Is there a specific person God wants you to encourage or “stir up” toward love and good works this week, especially on the threshold of a global pandemic?

Subscribe to “Abiding In Him” and get the latest devotional in your Inbox once a week.