I wanted to share with you a timely message from my friend, Todd Marrah, Superintendent of Tree of Life Christian Schools. Todd put into words very eloquently how we should be approaching our interactions with others during this unique time. I hope you find these words as helpful as I did.
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.
Sometimes keeping one’s distance is the best strategy. It might be in a friendship that turned sour or a business relationship that is headed in the wrong direction. Like oil and water, there are certain personalities that just don’t seem to mix. Our current crisis, however, would be better met with “physical distancing” rather than “social distancing.” It appears to be critical that we keep a six-foot distance from one another so as to not get sick nor to get others sick. But that is a physical distance and each of us still need and will increasingly crave our social, emotional, and spiritual relationships.
In numerous Biblical accounts, people were instructed to stay away from others. Genesis 19 provides a great example. The sin in Sodom was so great that the Lord sent two angels to see it first hand. Having spent the night with Lot and his family, the angels instructed them to leave the city before it was destroyed. That distancing proved difficult for Lot and his family. The angels actually had to take him by the hand to lead him out. His wife so longed to stay that she turned to look back and was turned into a pillar of salt.
The Israelites were often told to stay away from the cultures and people that surrounded them. And for good reason, they were in danger on many fronts.
Of course, Jesus regularly practiced an almost radical closeness. He seemed to celebrate touching the untouchable. Consider the leper in Matthew 8. His disease required him to stay away from everyone else. He was so contagious that he could no longer hug his wife or children and could not be anywhere near them. When he came into town he had to announce himself as a leper. Everyone went out of their way to avoid him and some would drive him away with stones. Imagine then, when he approached Jesus to seek healing, the gasping of many in the crowd, as Jesus reached out to touch him as He healed him. Jesus could have healed him without a touch, but he knew what the man needed physically and emotionally and spiritually, so He touched him….
Can I encourage you to strengthen your social relationships even as you practice keeping a physical distance? We need one another in the midst of a crisis. Each one of us has an incredible opportunity to be the body of Christ as we reach out and “touch” people while we are separated. Our biblical legacy is one of distancing ourselves from things that should be kept away while moving to deeply connect with people in need. Let’s each commit to reaching out to many over the next couple of weeks. If everyone else practices social distancing and our Tree of Life community practices social connecting, we have a chance to make quite a difference.
Todd R. Marrah, Ph.D