New situations require new words. And we’ve learned some new words these last few weeks, with the new situation we find ourselves in with coronavirus – phrases like “self-isolation” and “social distancing.” And we’re finding it hard. It’s not hard to learn the words, but it’s hard to do the isolating and the distancing.
Why do we find it hard? I think the answer’s quite simple. We’re wired for relationship, and it’s hard when we’re cut off from one another. It’s why so many of us dialled in to the Zoom conversation on Sunday morning? We just wanted to see each other’s faces, and to hear one another’s voices. It’s why some people are flouting the guidelines on social distancing. It’s why solitary confinement has long been regarded as a punishment.
And why are we wired for relationship? Because we’re made in God’s image. And God’s like that. God is persons in relationship. He always has been and always will be. I love that half-verse in John, chapter 17, verse 24, where Jesus is praying to his Father, and says, “you loved me before the creation of the world.” Before God loved me, or you, or anything at all – before there was anything at all apart from him – the Father loved the Son. And the Holy Spirit too!
Ultimate reality is God. So ultimate reality is persons in relationship. That’s why we find it hard to isolate ourselves from one another, and to distance ourselves socially. If God was a solitary being, and there was just him – only ‘God’, and no Father, Son or Spirit – wouldn’t we find it blissful to be isolated from each other? Because that’s what he’s like. But we don’t. (Okay, there are some who do, I’ll admit!)
And it’s not only that there’s no self-isolation or social distancing between the persons of the Godhead. But thankfully, amazingly, God hasn’t kept his distance from us either, even though he has every reason to want to do so. After all, we all carry the serious and deadly infection the Bible calls ‘sin’.
Yet what do we read in the Bible? God didn’t keep his distance. Not at all. No, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” And as if that wasn’t hazardous enough, we’re told that, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us.” In his Son, and especially in his Son’s death, God could not have got any closer to us.
So let’s practise proper self-isolation and social distancing, out of love for others, not least our valiant health workers. And at the same time let’s bow in humble adoration before the God who didn’t!