Social Distancing

Samuel Rindlisbacher

I could well imagine that the negative phrase of 2020 is “social distancing.” By mandate, we must distance ourselves physically, not shake hands, not give a hug. In worship services, it is important to keep apart and to sing hymns only with sufficient space between people. When we are shopping, we wear masks, disinfect our hands constantly, sneeze into the elbow and hide our facial expressions behind a piece of fabric. And thus, by and by we change into people without faces, without expression…almost into soulless beings. Yet we are so dependent on our fellow humans, on their reaction, response, understanding and compassion. We long for a warm hug, a loving word, sympathetic look, or firm handshake.

But wait—social distance is now required! I do not want to question the importance of these measures. Still, I cannot help but feel uneasy. What about man’s humanity, within the framework of spirit, soul, and body?

In view of this subject, I think there is one person—namely, God Himself—who could have taken the way of distancing Himself. He who dwells in inaccessible light, pure and holy in His nature, could very well have chosen isolation. But He did the opposite; He became a man and drew close to the despised, healed the sick without fear of contagion, sat at the table with those who were outcasts. He had mercy on the weeping, comforted the forsaken, and lifted up those in misery.

Yes, God is saddened because of our “social distancing,” especially our distance from Him. It is sin that separates us from Him. And, because this is the case, God the Son voluntarily accepted a degree of separation. He left the perfect residence of heaven, His eternal kingdom in which all angels serve Him, and where He had intimate communion with His Father. Seen in this way, He came to be “socially distanced” from His kingdom, His angels, His sphere of influence, His power.

Jesus took upon Himself our guilt and sin, carried the cross of shame, and let Himself be nailed to that cross. He “who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil 2:6-8).

On Calvary’s cross, He endured the worst of all “social distancing.” His friends turned away from Him; He was spit upon and tormented by his enemies, attacked by hell, and then abandoned by His Father. This was divine “social distance,” caused by our guilt and sin. But by adopting this divine social distance, God removed the cause of our social distance; namely, sin. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor 5:21).

And so, we can come back to Him; not just for a handshake or a fleeting hug, a loving word or an inviting gesture. No, much more: He invites us to become His heirs, His children, forever. He has removed the “social distance” so that we can be with Him, at His feet. “And [I] will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor 6:18).

Midnight Call - 11/2020

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