By Joel Ryan, Crosswalk.com
Neglect happens in all areas of life, from our exercise routines, at-home responsibilities, and even our spiritual disciplines. Christians aren’t strangers to neglect in this regard. We often neglect spending time in the word, going to church, and tithing when life gets busy or we feel overwhelmed.
Neglect doesn’t have to be intentional to be harmful either. We may not choose to ignore or blatantly disregard our responsibilities. The most subtle (and often dangerous) forms of neglect come from simply forgetting or losing sight of the things we should be doing.
It’s understandable that many personal habits, routines, and life disciplines have been thrown off by the global reaction to COVID-19. Right now, the health and safety of everyone in the world is our collective priority, and we are all adapting and doing our part to help limit the spread of the coronavirus.
However, when we are tired, stressed, busy, and focused on other things—even good and important things—we’re also more likely to neglect some of the smaller, but no less significant, responsibilities of life—spiritual disciplines among them.
With that being said, here are six things Christians shouldn’t neglect even in a global pandemic.
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1. Caring for God’s House and Its Leaders
During the rebuilding of Jerusalem, God sent the prophet Haggai to the children of Israel to encourage them to resume work on the temple of the Lord, which they had neglected.
Distracted by the taunts of their enemies and fearful that work on the Lord’s house would eventually lead them into poverty and financial ruin, the Israelites had postponed work on the temple to focus on their personal projects, provisions, and sense of security.
To this, God asked, “is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?” (Haggai 1:4). “’You look for much but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, it blows away. Why?’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘because of My house, which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house.’” (Haggai 1:9)
Ironically, in abandoning God’s house out of fear of financial ruin, the people of Israel put themselves into a greater financial hole. Had they simply trusted God and done what He had asked of them, they would have been provided for and seen all their needs met.
So what does this story have to do with COVID-19 and the times we are living in?
Staying home to take care of one’s family, and helping limit the spread of COVID-19, are not selfish or in any way neglectful. That is not the point or comparison I am making.
However, in a season where most of us are being asked to shelter in place and stay home, Christians cannot neglect the health of the church and the well-being of its leaders.
A lot of people have asked whether or not Christians should be tithing right now. The church is not closed for business, nor has it ever been! Pastors and ministers are not on furlough! Buildings may be closed. Resources may be stretched. Finances may be tight. And services may be streamed or postponed for the foreseeable future.
But the church is not cancelled, postponed, or sitting on the sidelines during this crisis. The world cannot afford that kind of neglect from Christ’s followers.
Pastors and church leaders need your support now more than ever, and that involves you continuing to tithe. God didn’t say to tithe or give only when it was convenient and times were good. He instructed Christians to trust Him with their finances, be generous, give, and promised to provide for your needs in every season, good and bad (Philippians 4:19, Matthew 6:33).
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2. Keeping Fellowship with Other Believers
We all know that most church services around the world have either been postponed or moved to an online format for the next few weeks, the church has not all of a sudden ceased to be the Body of Christ.
Even if they cannot meet in person in their normal buildings, or together in small groups, Christians must stay connected with fellow believers and encourage them through text messages, phone calls, and even via FaceTime or Skype.
The Apostle Paul was often prevented from meeting with churches and believers in person. This did not stop him from writing to fellow believers or praying for them from prison or wherever he was at (Romans 1:8-11). Today, we have the same spiritual resources available to Paul and even more in terms of our communications. Let’s use them and stop making excuses (1 Peter 3:8).
And just because you’re forced to stay home on Sundays also doesn’t mean that Sundays should now become days to only sleep in or binge-watch television. The Sabbath should still be honored with your family, even if you can’t physically be in a designated church building together.
If your church streams its services, get up at your normal time, get dressed, bring your family together in your home, and gather with other believers across the world to pray together and worship the God we serve. It may feel different, but the praise and worship of God’s people across the globe is no less powerful just because it happens from home.
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3. Taking Care of Your Neighbors
While the message being communicated across the world involves staying home and away from social settings, a lot of people have used this as an excuse to look out for their own needs and ignore the well-being of others.
The apostle John wrote, however, that “if anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17)
Paul also wrote, “let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)
Social distancing should never limit Christians from caring for their neighbors and community. Giving transcends all physical barriers, and there are ways to give and be generous that are still safe and considerate of others’ health and well-being.
Whether it’s writing letters to the elderly, donating to small businesses, sending toys and educational material to children at home, or delivering groceries to neighbors in need, now, more than ever, Christians must be generous, providing for those around them.
This especially includes local nurses, first responders, grocery store clerks, students, educators, parents and those out of work.
“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell.” (Proverbs 11:25-26)
The world is watching. What role will Christians play in the coming months?
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4. Praying for Your Leaders
If you watch any television coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, you’ll encounter a myriad of opinions and viewpoints and plenty of criticism thrown at government officials and leaders for their actions and responses. Social media can also become an incubator for negativity and misinformation, which only grow and spread over time.
Christians can rise above this spirit of negativity by praying for our leaders, those they like and those they don’t, rather than constantly criticizing them.
...have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. (Hebrews 13:17)
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5. Staying Healthy and Rested
Some may assume that extended stay-at-home orders mean most people have inherited an abundance of free time. For a lot of Americans, this season is far from a stay-at-home vacation.
While they will all tell you that they are grateful to still have work, our nurses and medical professionals don’t get days off.
Parents don’t get a break from bored children and stuck inside all day.
Educators weren’t given months to adapt their classrooms to an online format.
Truck drivers and delivery workers don’t stop delivering packages across the country and keeping hospitals and grocery stores supplied.
In this season, please remember to eat healthy as much as possible. Exercise when you can. And make time to rest and take care of your body during this trying season (Psalm 23).
And if you know others who are still working and working themselves to the bone, encourage them and support them however you can so they, too, can stay healthy while you stay at home.
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6. Celebrating Resurrection Sunday
If you’re like me, you’re probably sad that most Christians can’t gather for their regular Easter service on Easter Sunday. However, it doesn’t require neglecting to celebrate the miracle of Christ’s resurrection and the glory of Easter celebration.
In any season, Christians must choose joy over despair, hope over doubt, and faith over fear, trusting and proclaiming that God’s plans are good (Jeremiah 29:11).
In the moment, it may be difficult to see the light, but just remember, the doom and gloom of the cross would eventually fade to the joy and celebration of the resurrection, which we now share in. That alone is reason for celebration.
For nothing lifts our hearts and elevates us from the gloom of sadness, fear, and uncertainty quite like the praise and worship of the Resurrected King (Isaiah 61:3). And regardless of our situation, He is still worthy to be praised.
So this Easter, wherever you are, lift your voice to Jesus, see his hand at work in the world, know that He is with you always, and remember that His best is yet to come (Matthew 28:20).
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Joel Ryan is an LA-based children’s and young adult author who teaches writing at Life Pacific University. Joel is passionate about helping youth encounter the Lord through storytelling and art. In his blog, Perspectives Off the Page, he discusses all things writing, the creative process, and what makes great stories so impactful.