If I self-isolate at home, but do not have love, I am a sickness to the people I live with.
If I’m skilled at physical distancing—and even better at just not going out in the first place—but do not have love, I am nothing of note.
If I give all my time and energy to people online, or give up the things others might hoard, but do not have love, I gain nothing from my sacrifices.
Are these activities bad? Nope. It just means they won’t create any long-term maturity in my heart. I am robbed of the opportunity to gain things with deeper, lasting value.
But what is love? Love is patient and kind towards the governing authorities who have asked a lot of us lately. It is patient and kind to those who are “distant” and may not be as effective at keeping in touch as we want them to be. Patient and kind to those we are stuck with in close quarters, with all their idiosyncrasies. Also patient and kind to ourselves, even as we don’t live up to our own expectations of how we think we should be handling all these changes and uncertainties. And finally, patient and kind to others who may be making different physical distancing decisions than our own.
Love does not envy the situations of others, even the ones that look better than ours.
Love does not boast by giving one-sided reports of our circumstances, whether for pity or laughs or likes.
Love is not proud when we remain healthy, relatively speaking, as individuals or as a country.
Love does not dishonour others by spouting off our opinions or pointing fingers in blame.
Love is not self-seeking by doing what we like when it puts others at risk.
Love is not easily angered by the clickbait of the internet that intentionally stirs up emotion. Nor is it easily angered by the unintentional but daily irritants of living within a household you cannot leave. Especially among these people, love keeps no record of wrongs.
Love abhors evil, refusing to even secretly mock the plight of countries and people who might be considered enemies. Instead it rejoices with the truth that, just as we are all equally mortal, life-giving salvation is equally available to all.
Love always protects, without fear.
Love always trusts, while working through relational challenges.
Love always hopes, while holding loosely to specific expectations for the future, refusing to make demands of God.
Love always perseveres, even as it becomes more and more tempting to ignore safety guidelines.
Love never fails.
But where there is self-isolation, someday we will see this come to an end.
Where there is physical distancing, we will again know physical touch.
Where there is no work, or only the prospect of working from home, we will one day emerge, and again complain at having to leave the house in the morning.
For now we see others through a screen remotely, then we shall see face to face. Now we only know a very few relationships in person, but one day we shall see many.
Beyond this time, these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.
May this time be an opportunity to grow in the quality and quantity of our love, for it will remain beyond this moment. May this season mature our love, in the crucible of living with only a few isolated people. May it be that when the world emerges from sheltering in place, it finds the church transformed to be a people who have spent the days and weeks and months of isolation intentionally learning how to love. May God bless us with a new intensity of love, that the world might know his deep love for them as well.