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“From at Least Six Feet Away”
“How do we achieve being socially distant but spiritually connected is what I’m trying to figure out.” These were the words of Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo yesterday as he concluded his daily coronavirus news conference. He is undoubtedly not the only one asking this question. Good news Governor! I know the answer.
This is a question that the first Christians had to deal with. Almost from the start they were under severe persecution that resulted in separation and isolation from both physical and spiritual families. They had a profound understanding of what being socially distant meant. Perhaps that is why the writers of the New Testament addressed this issue of being connected while being distant in such distinct terms.
Followers of Jesus Christ have a very unique relationship with their Savior. The Apostle Paul describes it this way “But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” (1 Corinthians 6:17) The Greek word used by Paul for join here is “kallomai” which emphasizes the close relationship of being a disciple. The text literally says “But the one who is joined to the Lord is one spirit”. As a disciple of Jesus Christ there is no distance between Christ and myself spiritually speaking. We are one. That is true of all of His followers, so we are also one with each other. This oneness is part of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 where He asks “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21).
The relationship that God’s children have with the Father, the Son and each other is often referred to as fellowship. The Greek word for fellowship is “kononia”. That Greek word means that we have an association involving a close mutual relationship. The Apostle John says it this way: “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3).
That same word. “kononia” is used in Paul’s Benediction of 2 Corinthians. There he prays that “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14). We see in this text that the Holy Spirit is involved in producing this Fellowship as well as the Father and the Son. The whole Trinity is involved.
What is clear from these texts is that Christians don’t have to be in the same room to be together. Because we are all one with the Lord, we are also joined to each to each other no matter the geographical boundaries. Beyond that, the fellowship that we share with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, is something we have with each other even from a distance.
One of the purest ways to experience this connectedness is through prayer. Spiritually speaking, as we pray together even when we are apart, we are in the same place. We at the throne of grace. The writer of Hebrews in fact invites us there saying “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
When we call a fellow believer on our cell phone we can know that we are one in the Lord. As we send a text to a brother or sister we are sure that they and we share fellowship with one another and with our Lord. When we pray with one another virtually through Facebook, through streaming, through zoom, etc. to seek mercy and grace in this hour of need we are together on our knees at the throne of grace. We are, spiritually speaking, connected in the same room, the throne room of God.
So, the answer to the Governor’s question “How do we achieve being socially distant but spiritually connected?” is simple but profound. It is a question that the followers of Christ in the first century had to answer as they fled persecution and where separated from their families and each other. It is best achieved by praying together not necessarily in the same geographical place but in the same spiritual space, the throne room of God. Governor, there is room here at the altar if you want to join us.
Pastor Dave Watson