April 2020 Newsletter Article

I had surgery two weeks ago to repair an inguinal hernia. This surgery, like all the others, has reminded me how connected and inter-related are the parts of my body. When I hurt in one part –all of me feels the pain. (BTW – I’m doing good and recovery is progressing well)
The inter-connectedness of our physical body is an illustration of a spiritual truth. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:26–27)
This morning I read an article by Erik Raymond in which he asks the question, How Can We Be the Body When Physically Separated?
This is a question the Elders and Deacons here at Westwood have been asking and working through for the past three weeks.
Millions of Christians around the world are answering this question during the increasingly restrictive measures deployed to combat the spread of the coronavirus. God’s people come together in myriad ways, but most primarily by gathering on the Lord’s Day for worship. But now, in this current crisis, we cannot.
How can we be the body of Christ when physically separated? While being physically present substantially enhances our fellowship in the body of Christ, it is not the exclusive sphere of our togetherness. In other words, the bond together as a body is not primarily physical but spiritual. This means that we as Christians can still do good to one another, even when we are apart.
Here are five ways we can be the body of Christ, even when we are physically separated.
We need to spend time in the Word of God ourselves (Ps. 1). Neglecting to feed ourselves on the bread of life is spiritual suicide by starvation. In addition, neglecting the Bible is also to neglect the body of Christ.
Reading God’s Word – meditating on it, memorizing it, speaking it back into each other’s lives is essential for the health if the Body. Do all of this so you can have something to encourage your brothers or sisters with. Most of what people hear and see today is fuel for fear. Yes, there are real needs. Yes, there is reason to be concerned. Yes, people are hurting and confused. The answers people most need will be found in God’s Word. If you can take from your own freshly prepared meal of God’s Word and share it with others, then you will be serving them well. When we speak to one another, we need to say words that fit the need of the moment and give grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29). To do this, we need to give ourselves to the daily reading of the Scriptures.
Prayer is one of the most obvious things we can do. Being separated by space does not limit the service we can provide to each other in this way. We can take the prayers of Scripture and make them our own. The prayers of Paul are an excellent place to start. We can take the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9–14) and pray it for one another. You can use your church directory as a prayer list. Pray for members of your LifeGroup and Sunday School class. Pray for your elders and Deacons and their families also. While you may be personally quarantined, your prayers are not.
Since we are members of one body, it matters what we do with our physical bodies. There are implications for our union as a church. We are to pursue holiness and be intolerant of sin. The fighting I’m talking about is against our own sin. With the understanding that we are part of the body of Christ we then want to fight against sin that would pollute the body. Just like you wouldn’t want to do something that would hurt yourself, so too, you don’t want to injure the body. During the time of isolation for coronavirus reports indicate that all sorts of undesirable activities are increasing. Sins like drunkenness, abuse, pornography, and others are on the rise. As Christians, we don’t see this time as a season for moral laxity or self-indulgence but of holiness through self-denial. We are to fight against sin and put it to death because we are Christ’s (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5). And if we are Christ’s then we are part of his body.
Being apart can make serving more difficult. It forces us to be creative. Instead of meeting face to face, we can pick up the phone and call each other to check-in. We can also text, email, or video chat. Make it a goal of the intentional interaction to speak words of encouragement and grace to one another. Remind them of what God has impressed upon your heart. Tell them how you’ve been praying for them. Ask if they have any physical, financial, or other needs. As these needs arise, be in contact with your elders and deacons to advise of the needs.
One expression of being a part of the body of Christ is the regular, joyful, and sacrificial giving to the Lord’s work in our local churches. The current crisis has far-reaching implications, and local churches like Westwood are not exempt. Even though we are not meeting publicly, the needs continue. I am thankful for way our members are demonstrating faithfulness in stewardship. Several new folks are utilizing on-line giving platform, and others are mailing their tithes to the church office.
There are many other ways the church can be the church when not gathered together physically. If you have any suggestions or ideas, I’d love to hear from you. God is in control, and he remains unflinchingly committed to his church. Let us seek his wisdom to do the same.
The basis for this article comes from Erik Raymond in a piece he wrote for Gospel Coalition entitled How Can We Be the Body When Physically Separated? I made a few changes that relate to us here at Westwood.

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