“Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.” – Hebrews 13:3
Since nearly the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have chosen to isolate themselves completely or in large part, due to concerns about contracting the virus or spreading it to others. Many of us have directly felt the effects of that isolation, especially with our loved ones (I, for example, haven’t seen my 95-year-old grandmother since this all began). It has been a strange and difficult season.
Included in this number of those who are isolating from others are some fellow believers from our own churches. And whether you think such isolation is absolutely essential or a complete overreaction, or somewhere in between, the fact it is that it is happening. So what does God’s word call us to do? The exhortation above from the author of Hebrews provides one very important element of that response.
Voluntary social isolation isn’t the same thing as being a prisoner, of course, or as someone who is ill-treated. The suffering that came with those situations was intense. In comparison to such things, isolating in one’s own home is an easy lifestyle in many ways.
But not in every way. Self-isolating believers today share one key challenge with the imprisoned Christians of that day: they are missing the privilege of direct interaction with other believers.
It’s all too easy for many things in our lives to be “out-of-sight, out-of-mind.” Sadly, that also easily includes those with whom we are united in Jesus Christ as members of the same body (1 Cor. 12:12-26).
So what can we do for those who are isolated? The challenge from Hebrews 13:3 is an appropriate one for us to take on:
- We are to remember them – to keep them in mind, to think about them, and to not simply let them drift out of our head until they may show back up one day.
- To remember them as though in isolation with them. This means that our heart toward them is not one of condescending judgmentalism (even if you think that it’s necessary to challenge someone’s reasons for isolation!). Rather, our heart should overflow with sympathy toward their isolation.
As I heard one person in our church wisely say early on during the pandemic, there are plenty of understandable and non-sinful reasons why someone might choose not to attend church during a season such as this, but we can’t pretend that it won’t have an effect. We as fellow believers in Christ should strive to mitigate and overcome that effect for those who can’t attend, and to show love to those who are part of the body of Christ with us. And a major way we do this is by remembering them as if we are in isolation just like they are.
Here are a few ways you might remember those who are isolated:
- Calling and/or texting them on a regular basis, or even just once
- Finding ways to visit with them that they are comfortable with
- Asking them about the hardships and the joys of the past several months
- Scheduling video hangouts
- Interacting with them on your church’s worship service livestream (but not during the sermon, of course!)
- Delivering items to them or for them
- Praying for them
Let’s not just go about our business and forget our isolating brethren. Let’s instead demonstrate the love of Christ by making the effort to remember them as if we were in their position ourselves!