Jesus and Social Distancing

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The dawning sun did its best to peek through the clouds as I prayerwalked my neighborhood this morning. I prayed that all of my neighbors would wake up feeling a supernatural peace, and a trust that God was for them, not against them. I prayed that as the world is being shaken, they would hold tightly to what is unshakeable.

I also meditated on our newest buzzword, “social distancing,” and decided that Jesus would not have been a fan of it.

In the New Testament, it was the Pharisees who were the champions of social distancing. Whether for  purposes of protection (from lepers) or purity (from Gentiles, sinners—basically anyone not like them), they prided themselves in keeping their distance.

Jesus was the opposite. He intentionally touched the leper—and healed him. He healed all kinds of diseases and demonization through the power of touch. He also went to foreign lands to seek out Gentiles, and went to the parties where the “sinners” gathered. Pharisees like Simon found Jesus’ lack of social distance offensive when Jesus praised a prostitute who kissed his feet.

The Pharisees were afraid of disease touching them; Jesus knew the healing power inside of him was stronger than any disease. The Pharisees were afraid that Gentiles or sinners would contaminate them; Jesus knew that the goodness inside of him was stronger than any sin.

“But we’re only human, not like Jesus,” some might argue.

Didn’t Jesus send out his followers with instructions to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons”? I have to believe that part of God’s provision for overcoming the corona virus is his children moving in healing miracles.

When Susie is a little girl, we tell her, “Don’t go to Jill’s house for a week or you’ll get chicken pox.” When Susie becomes a woman, she sets aside her fear to work in a hospice serving HIV patients.

When Johnny is a teenager, we tell him, “Don’t go to the red light district or the temptation could cause you to stumble.” When Johnny becomes a father himself, a greater passion governs him, and he starts a ministry rescuing children from prostitution in Thailand.

Growing into maturity in Christ doesn’t mean we don’t understand the dangers around us. It means we have enough faith to believe that the manifestation of Jesus’ healing power and compassionate goodness through us is stronger than anything we’ll face.

Social distancing is one effective solution to slowing the spread of the corona virus. But it can create new problems if it results in fear or lack of compassion to those around us.

When someone asked Jesus what it meant to “love your neighbor,” he told the story of the Good Samaritan. A Jew lay by the road, beaten and robbed. Other religious Jews, worried about either protection (from robbers) or purity (touching a corpse), or perhaps just busy with their religious activities, kept their distance. But a Samaritan traveler stopped, treated the man’s wounds, and took him to a hotel, even paying for his stay. He took a significant risk, and paid a significant cost, to love a stranger.

If this story were set in modern-day Beverly Hills, a rich white man would have been robbed and beaten, his body tossed behind a night club. The other guests would have been afraid to get involved. But a young African-American getting off work late would have seen the man, picked him up and carried him to his car, and driven him to a hospital, and offered to pay the bill. What a risk! Anyone seeing him carry the man to his car could have assumed the wrong thing. If the man was a tourist with no insurance, it could have set him back financially for a long time.

But that’s what “loving your neighbor” is all about.

I also prayed for my nation this morning. I prayed that in our desire to limit the spread of the corona virus through social distancing, we would not go too far and limit our love for those around us. Plenty of people need our help. We need to love without fear, trusting that the Christ in us has more than enough healing power and compassionate goodness to overcome anything we face today.

Let Christ guide us when to close that social distance, and be available to help someone today.

Published by Jim Baton

Jim Baton (pen name) has spent over 25 years living in the Muslim world, where he’s been involved in a variety of peace and reconciliation activities including interfaith dialogue, training elementary through university students in peace principles, and bringing Christians and Muslims together to pray. Jim's writing, speaking and teaching is helping Christians and Muslims build bridges of understanding, love and prayer both in Muslim nations and at home in America. His novels contain a depth of understanding regarding the roots of the Christian and Muslim conflict, how to bring healing to Abraham’s broken family, how to combat terrorism with non-violence and love, and how to become a true peacemaker.

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