How do I love you if I can’t be with you? Lukan discipleship in a pandemic world

April 21st, 2020
This article is featured in the Growing Spiritually issue of Ministry During The Pandemic

Editor's note: This article is part of a series of articles from the author related to the release of Gospel Discipleship: Participant Guide and Gospel Discipleship: Congregation Guide (Abingdon Press, 2020). Read previous posts here and follow the month-long digital release party on Facebook.

A legal expert stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?”

 Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?”

 He responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

 Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”

 But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29, CEB translation)

* * *

One of my dearest friends is a Lukan. In fact, it's Cathy, the woman in the video for Gospel Discipleship. I have worked with Cathy, and I am spending some of life with Cathy right now. And this is life with her:

“If you have been around other people, please do not come around me. We have to stop the spread of this thing so no one gets hurt.”

“You will be at the house later, right? I really need to talk through all that is going on and make sure you are okay.”

And that, in a nutshell, is the Lukan anxiety of this situation. She knows that it is best if we all minimize contact with one another. That is the protective measure to preserve her life and the lives of all the people she loves (and boy, does she love a lot of people). But she also loves a lot of people, and when there are threats around, she wants to pull us all close and look into our eyes and make sure we are all okay, and most of all, make sure that we know she loves us. But keeping everyone safe and holding everyone close are working against each other in this situation, and it is making Lukans absolutely crazy.

"Gospel Discipleship" by Michelle J. Morris. Order here:

Well first, Lukans, I am not going to minimize your pain. It is awful. Look, even us Markan, Johannines, and Mattheans want to wrap our arms around the people we love and hold them close right now. All the more heartbreaking for you. This is hard, and it is going to continue to be hard.

But all is not lost: There are still myriads of ways to connect to one another. Technology can be a wonderful thing. I am not particularly meaning the social media kind in this case; I know too many people, and Lukans especially, who are sucked into their social media which right now, honestly, is not always helpful. Full of misinformation, for some it is deeply raising anxiety instead. It can be a way to check in reliably, but it may also need to be used sparingly for sanity right now.

But we do still have some reliable technology that allows for maintaining connection. We have online conferencing options like Zoom. I used Zoom to open Christmas presents with my family once. You could sit down to dinner with people through Zoom, or keep having Bible study or UMW circle. Then, there is the good old-fashioned telephone. A lot of us are stuck at home for a while, so pick up the phone, call, and get caught up. There's even the more old-fashioned letter and card writing. Send them to shut-ins (which may be practically everyone for a bit), folks in nursing homes, your grandkids or grandparents, people in prison, police and fire and medical personnel… Your care and concern for people could be put to great use right now in a world that fears all this isolation.

And then what about your neighbors? I stopped the biblical passage above at a weird point, because I want us to think about who our neighbors are. We have the kind of reach right now that makes everyone a potential neighbor. So all those people I just recommended reaching out to above are our neighbors. But honestly, these days we are better at reaching people at a distance than the people we live right next door to. Well, Lukans, this may be your moment to help us remember the people right next door to us. As the weather gets better, what if our Lukans led out by sitting on the porch waving at people as they walked by walking their pets? As long as we keep safely social distancing, as long as we interact with one another with space between us and stay with guidelines that the CDC recommends, staying attentive to who is vulnerable (and like I recommended to Mattheans you may need to sit the contact out), we can keep or make new connection with one another. Perhaps we will have two or three gathered in front yards this summer.

Lukans, I know some of these ideas do not seem ideal. In fact, to some of you they don’t feel real, and you need to feel real connection right now. But let me share this: I was doing a presentation on the difference in generations, and I had someone in my generation (Gen X) accuse Millennials and Gen Z of not having deep friendships because so many of those take place over screens. But I pushed back on that. I remembered when I moved from Oklahoma to Arkansas in 7th grade. I was allowed one long distance phone call per month, and it had to be after 7 p.m., and I was only allowed thirty minutes to talk. Those “lifelong” friendships that I had fell apart pretty quickly. On the other hand, my pastor kid son has moved four times in his lifetime, and he has maintained close contact with friends from and throughout those moves. He may actually really have lifelong friendships thanks to technology. So I invite all of us to let the younger generations lead us. This way of relating is not foreign to them, and they can show us how to be authentic as we relate in new ways.

Lukans, you are called to love. If there was ever a time when the world needs love, it is now. Do not let the bounds of isolation keep you from who you are called to be as a disciple. Be safe, be responsible, but also be open. Your love will be transformative for others, because it is the love that flows from Christ.

God bless our Lukans. Wondering if you are Lukan? Take the assessment to find out at

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