Social Distancing

“The LORD sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness.” (Psalm 41:3)

It’s interesting to see how people react when life as they knew it yesterday is suddenly different today. When we have to experience confinement due to a recent surgery, because we are infectious, are facing an unsafe weather emergency, or responding to imposed restrictions intended to reduce the spread of a deadly disease like the Coronavirus – many of us become frazzled. The mantra from children and others who need some form of direction in their lives is . . . “So what do I do now?”  When our daily routine becomes interrupted, often times our coping skills do as well.  The disruption of the security of a familiar schedule makes us anxious for a norm that was but no longer is, at least for a while. It becomes worse when we are told to restrict our interpersonal contact with those outside of our immediate household. This practice has come to be known as “social distancing.”

You will recall times when you were young that you weren’t allowed to play with friends who were contagious with certain childhood diseases. If you are one of the millions of older Americans, you may remember a period when doctors made house calls and, if a quarantine needed to be imposed, visitation restriction signs were posted on the front doors of infected homes. The Bible contains many references to “uncleanliness.” Worshipers had to comply with the laws of the day, and if they were considered to be unclean – they could not approach God with reverence. A good case in point were persons who had become afflicted with leprosy. Those who had the disease were required to keep themselves apart from others until they were healed. Their clothes would be torn, and they had to cover their head and face and cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!” (Leviticus 13:45). Also, as long as the serious disease lasted – they were considered ceremonially unclean and had to live in isolation outside of the camp (Leviticus 13:46).

In God’s Holy Word, Luke writes about ten lepers who collectively approached Jesus, while remaining at a distance as required by the law. They called out to Him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (Luke 17:13). Without seemingly doing anything to heal them, “He looked at them and said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests’” (Luke 17:14).  At the moment of His direction no physical change took place, but they did as Jesus had instructed.  As they began their walk, it was then that they were cured. However, only one returned to thank Jesus for the healing. Even though He had not withheld healing from the other nine, He made a point of remarking about their lack of gratitude (Luke 17:18). Note Jesus’ final words to the thankful Samaritan: “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you” (Luke 17:19). No doubt this man received the blessing of a spiritual healing, in addition to the cleansing of his skin.

It is important that we don’t become like the nine lepers who failed to give glory to God for the provision of His blessings. Having to socially distance by temporarily sheltering-in-place is not the end of the world. We have the luxury of maintaining contact with others by phone. Many are able to continue interaction by video applications such as Skype and Facetime. We should be using these to reach out to those who may be isolated and have basic needs for which we can offer support. If we are on the receiving end, we need to be grateful. Those of us who are fortunate to share a home should value this time of fellowship. In this day and age, we have no reason to feel separated from a spiritual connection. There are 24- hour broadcast TV and radio programs available, and worship services are streaming from various churches and spiritual leaders. Periods of isolation are a great opportunity to count your many blessings. Worry is counterproductive and indeed a sin against hope. There is no reason to be fearful.  I heard recently that “be not afraid” is mentioned 365 times in scripture. Why not begin to search and reflect on those daily? You will find encouragement and affirmation that you are, indeed, never socially distanced from God.

REFLECTION: In what ways does learning about the laws of physical uncleanliness contained in scripture help you understand more about Jesus’ ministry and His purpose to make us spiritually clean?  How can these lessons relate to us, especially during periods of confinement and social isolation? As you relate to those who need to socially distance, how might you apply these words contained in 3 John 1:2: “Friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.”

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