Social Distancing & The Gospel

Lenten Devotional | Week 3

Getting Started

Universities closed. Graduations cancelled. The NBA shut down. Bars & restaurants shuttered until further notice. Churches moving to online services only. We're living in strange times.

I learned a new term in the midst of all of this: social distancing. If you don't know what that means, basically it's choosing to limit your contact with the people in your community: eating at home vs. eating out, avoiding large group gatherings like churches, bars & parties, and staying home as much as possible. This greatly curbs the spread of the disease because we are limiting our contact with one another. For those who have compromised immune systems or are elderly, this kind of distancing will actually save lives. 

If the healthy choose to limit their freedom and protect themselves from getting sick, they will protect the most vulnerable in our society. 

Galatians 5:13-26

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Questions to Consider

  1. How does the writer of Galatians contrast the acts of flesh and the acts of spirit? What do you make of that distinction?
  2. What do you think it means to use your freedom to indulge the flesh? How can this "freedom" hurt yourself and hurt those around you?
  3. Notice the list of the desires of the flesh (vv. 19-21). They're intense! Which ones resonate with you? What do they have in common with each other? 
  4. Now read vv. 22-26 several times. What do you notice about the fruit of the Spirit? What is the benefit of living life this way- to ourselves and to others? How is this different than living in the flesh?

Closing Reflection

I'll admit that when I first heard news of the Covid-19 virus, I never expected to see these kinds of preventive measures take place in our society. But I am incredibly encouraged by the way people are rolling with it. TikTok is exploding with hilarious clips of people working from home and washing their hands. Universities are hosting classes online so that students can still graduate on time. A good friend of mine is offering to run errands for her elderly neighbor so they won't be exposed to the virus. And just yesterday I watched church at home in my pajamas with my in-laws.

But I've also seen some really discouraging responses. I've seen friends on social media insist that this is all a conspiracy and refuse to change their behaviors. I've seen people bicker with one another about the unfairness of their local bar closing on St. Patrick's Day. My gym announced on Instagram that they were closing for at least a month and the comment section immediately filled with people who were pissed that they couldn't work out.

Our flesh revolts at the idea that we have to give up some of our freedoms for the sake of others. In a society that celebrates "You do You", we've come to believe the insidious lie that our personal freedom is a right that no one should ever dare violate or question.

As we read in today's passage we see that freedom is not a right, it is a gift. Freedom is a gift that we must steward well so that it causes those around us to flourish, not perish. Jesus himself limited his own freedom by going to the cross and making the ultimate sacrifice- giving up his life so that we may live. It certainly wasn't fair the Jesus, who lived without sin, had to die for our sins. But he didn't grumble and complain about it. Jesus gave up his freedom willingly so that we might flourish and not perish. 

As Christ-followers, we have an opportunity to limit our freedom so that others might live. Can we do this without "hatred..., fits of rage, and selfish ambition"? Right now we have an opportunity to graciously limit our freedom during this time so that our communities will experience the fruits of the Spirit. How amazing would it be if our houses, campuses, and cities were exploding with love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control!

Here are a few tips to limit your freedom for the sake of others:

1. Minimize trips outside the house. Consider making a list of meals for the week and only going to the grocery story once. Try out workout videos on YouTube or go for a run outside. Remember that limiting your freedom is a way to "love your neighbor as yourself."

2. Consider how fasting during Lent connects with this. Being stuck inside makes the temptation to binge on anything (tv, alcohol, drugs, food, etc) much harder to resist. Perhaps God might be inviting you to fast from alcohol for the next few weeks? Or maybe watch less tv?

3. Connect with friends digitally. Host group hangouts to play jackbox or other games. Facetime with your parents and make it a point to watch church each week.

4. Keep growing spiritually. Do you lead a Chapter Ministry? Keep meeting but over skype or zoom! I wouldn't be surprised if new people want to join in. Consider gathering a few friends together to pray a few times a week or keep a group text to share prayer requests with one another. 

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