It’s a term we’ve become all too familiar with recently – social distancing. It refers to the effort to reduce physical and social interaction in order to slow down the spread of a contagious disease. We’re being encouraged and even mandated to follow this practice in light of the current pandemic. Many are finding themselves either by choice or by force experiencing less personal contact with other people. Keeping away from large gatherings and even enlarging our personal space between ourselves and other individuals is becoming the new normal for now. As we navigate through these unfamiliar waters, let’s consider a few of the drawbacks and opportunities it presents to us as followers of Christ.
First of all, let’s not allow ourselves to get too accustomed to this practice. Even before this current health scare occurred, many of us were guilty of isolating ourselves from others even when we were physically in their presence. We were often too busy scanning our electronic devices to interact with the people sitting around us. Now as we add actual physical separation to the equation, it could result in an even greater mindset of withdrawing into our own little worlds. We may need to remind ourselves that the Christian faith isn’t just about our individual walk with God – there is always a social aspect to it. We aren’t just disjointed individuals connected to Christ by faith. We are all members of His body – all connected to one another as well as to Him. We aren’t only to love God but to love our neighbors as ourselves. Let’s not fall into such a spirit of self-preservation in these times that we lose our focus on caring about our fellow man. Even if we may be limited in the extent to which we can physically be close to others, let’s use these times to stay connected and draw close in other ways, whether by phone calls, texts, social media, or other means. Creatively find different ways to maintain fellowship with other believers, as well as to fulfill your mission to be a witness for Christ. Nothing can take the place of a friendly handshake or a warm hug, but until we can renew those practices, let’s stay in touch in the ways we can. And by the way, online church or televised services are helpful when we need them, but they are no substitute for actual face-to-face interaction with other people who have gathered to worship the Lord. So let’s not allow the convenience of these alternative options hinder us from getting back into attending regular church gatherings when they are readily available again.
Meanwhile many of the changes resulting from this effort at social distancing have disrupted some of our usual routines. Some are wondering what to do with children who are out of school when many recreational venues are closed down. What do we do with additional time off work, with no sporting activities to watch on TV, and with other normal activities no longer an option? Do we just sit around and binge watch old TV shows? I would challenge us all to use this time of keeping a distance from other people as an opportunity to narrow the distance between us and the Lord. People often make excuses about not having time to read their Bibles or pray. Maybe these current circumstances offer you more time to do that. And in the face of a pandemic, we all need to be spending more time in earnest prayer for God’s intervention and mercy. Use this opportunity to bridge the gap between you and God. You may not be able to get close to other people, but you can draw close to Him.