A new church was formed and, as often happened, it was persecuted. The beliefs of Christians were different from the Pagan world. Many felt the Christian beliefs angered the gods of Rome, which caused the downfall of the Roman Empire.
Paul, after forming the church and moving on with his missionary journey, wrote to the church to remind them of hope in Christ – and to remind the individual church that they are not alone – that in fact the entire church is with them.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20 Paul writes: As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you – in person, not in heart – we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. For we wanted to come to you – certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again – but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Yes, you are our glory and joy!
We are in one of those situations when the church is separated physically, but not spiritually. We may not gather together in person, but we continue to gather, we continue to reach out, we continue to proclaim our hope in Christ.
We can learn from Paul’s journeys. He was shipwrecked, arrested multiple times, beaten and driven out of cities. Yet he always kept his hope in Christ. His faith was challenged and probably shaken at times, but it remained in Jesus. He may not have been able to gather together with the various churches he started – but he remained in contact with them through his letters. And we gain by those very letters, for they were inspired by the Holy Spirit and given to us.
Our “stay at home” orders may have been extended for a little while longer, and opening the building is still “down the road”, but the church continues. We remain separated only in person but not in heart. And we must stand firm in our joy – Jesus and each other.