As much of the world is now on lockdown, meaning that voluntary physical distancing became physical distancing through a government order, I wanted us as believers all over the world to consider the difference between “social distancing” and “physical distancing.”
Social Distancing vs. Physical Distancing
Rather than term what we are all doing as “social distancing,” would it not be better to refer to this as “physical distancing?”
Here’s why this is important:
- Social distancing means that we are isolated socially, not in touch with anybody, alone, feeling abandoned and definitely not part of a loving and living body of people (1 Corinthians 12:12).
- Physical distancing is simply just that; you don’t get too close to people. This is a small difference in choice of words, but a huge difference in understanding, acceptance, and consequently, practice.
For the sake of others, let us practice physical distancing willingly and obediently. Let us be the model citizens the Word calls us to be (Romans 13:1) and exemplify those who put into practice the instructions of our respective national governments that are given for the good of all.
The church is still the church despite physical distance. Nothing will stop the church being the church. Nothing. Jesus said that, on the bedrock truth that He is the Son of God, nothing would ever prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18), and being physically distant from each other for a fixed period of time will certainly not. So, valuing others more highly than ourselves, let us willingly practice physical distancing.
During this unprecedented time, we have a wonderful opportunity to see if the church is really the church.
We will see if this body of people is self-supporting, self-sustaining and self-supplicating (James 5:16).
- Is the church reaching out to the community?
- Is the church meeting the needs found therein?
- Is the church bathing its members in prayer?
We will see if this body of people is Kingdom focused or kingdom-focused (Matthew 6:24).
Is the church focused on God’s plans and purposes during this time, or is the church focused on the things that have been postponed or cancelled. Is the church focused on the programmes or the people?
We will see if the church is filling its God-given mandate to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).
On any given Sunday (or Friday for me), the actual work of the church is usually done by a select few, those “on staff” maybe, or the faithful few who understand that serving the Lord through serving His people is not optional for the believer. Now that this physically cannot be the case, we will see whether the church family at large will spring into action and be the hands and feet of our Lord.
We will see if there is fruit and a root (James 2:14-26).
What we do always shows what we believe, so this time of enforced change will quickly bring to the surface through our actions what we hold dear and where we are willing to invest our time, talent and treasure. Does our fruit match what we claim to be our root?
Simply, we will see if this called-out-of-the-world group of people really are fully regenerate born again believers, part of the living body of Christ, or just a group of consumers who turn up to watch a religious TEDTalk once a week.
This is going to sting for some; this is going to turn some away (John 6:60), but for those truly part of the body, this is going to be a defining period of time, a call to action, a call to take up arms, a call to show that, yes, we are the church. We aren’t going anywhere; we are here for each other and for the world.
Brother, sisters, in a spirit of deferential love, let us willingly practice physical distancing, but let us not now nor ever be a church that is comfortable with social distancing. Let us come together, socially and spiritually, and show the world that we are the church today, tomorrow and every day.
This article was originally published here on April 9, 2020.