Social Distancing

I’ve had a lot of people worried about us out here in California, the land of fruits and nuts, especially hearing the news that we are now under a “stay at home” order by our state. I recorded a podcast on the pandemic on Tuesday and when it aired today, it was already a bit out of date, but the observations we talk about there are still important. People want to know how Sara and I are doing.  There’s nothing new we were asked to do last night that Sara and I haven’t already been doing, given that her allergies make her high risk.  We only go out for trips of necessity and that sparingly. We have all we need at this point and are physically fine. We miss some of the regular activities that have been part of the rhythm of our lives, but this is the most crucial circumstances our world has faced since World War II.  I know it doesn’t look like it yet to some people, but this is bigger than 9/11.  How we respond in this moment as individuals and as a nation will define us for centuries to come.

Unfortunately, this is going to hurt for a while. People are getting sick, and some will die. Businesses will be lost and bankruptcies will multiply. Don’t think just because you’re a Christian or “have faith in God”, you will be exempt from the consequences of this. Jesus reminded us that it rains on the just and the unjust. Anyone telling you that we still need to gather in our “churches” because that’s the safest place to be is lying to you.  There’s just no way around it. But these moments can overwhelm us or they can define us as resilient people that can rise above the challenges, mitigate the spread of this virus every way we can, and ride it out until the sun dawns again. This is one of those moments where we’re being called to “All Hands On Deck!”

I hope we have the national fortitude to respect what’s happening here and in these critical times not just think about ourselves, but be mindful that we’re part of a larger community. Each of us has a choice. Will I live by the creed of “everyone for themselves”, hoarding toilet paper, pulling out of my investments, stocking up on ammunition, or go attending “church” meetings to help spread the virus. Or, will I live out of generosity for people around me, either helping with finances if you have extra or connecting with those who might feel exceptionally lonely as they are no longer able to access their social gatherings.

In talking with a friend of mine yesterday, who also happens to pastor the local Presbyterian fellowship, he mentioned that they’ve changed the terminology a bit. We are being told by our public health people to not be with more than ten people, to stay in our homes and limit trips to necessary ones only, and to stay six feet away from others when we are out. But he said they are not calling that “social distancing,” but “physical distancing”, because that’s all we’re being asked to do. We don’t have to socially isolate. Through phone calls, FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom you can maintain all your social friendships and encourage others in the process. They are using the term, “Physical Distancing, with Social Interaction.”  I’m using that, too, because it reminds me to stay outward in my focus even as I remain separated physically.

I love that. I wish our government would have used it because I know people already hunkering down in the loneliness of their own homes and feeling pretty isolated. Let’s maintain social interaction, and perhaps all the more in these days. Think of five people you can connect with each day just to check in on them. You can’t watch that many Netflix shows anyway.  And if you’re lonely, call someone or arrange a video chat.  This is the time to be alone physically, but not socially.  Let others brighten your day.

He also shared with me the words of Martin Luther that expressed his approach to dealing with the Black Death that was ravaging Europe. Timely advice even today.

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me, and I have done what he has expected of me, and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

Luther’s Works Volume 43, pg 132 the letter “Whether one may flee from a Deadly Plague” written to Rev. Dr. John Eric Hess

Words of wisdom from a few centuries ago. This is how Sara and I are living it and hope you are, too. This is not a time for fear, but for deeper trust in Father’s presence with us and his provision for us regardless of what circumstances dish out.

The book cover of IN SEASON superimposed over a grape vineyard.

Let me make a few other announcements while I’ve got you here… First, In Season, which is a farmer’s view of John 15 and what it means to grow in fruitfulness and fulfillment in his kingdom, is now available in audio. I do the reading myself, so when you get tired of watching a ton of video, let me read to you. You can also get four of my other books here.

Also, I did a last-minute appearance on The Vince Coakley Show in Charlotte, NC today and will post the link here when the podcast is up.  We talked about the pandemic, Rodney Howard Brown’s assertion that people who stay away from his “church” during this time are “pansies”, and how we can live more generously in this season.

Finally, I’m thinking with my daughter about making this season of being homebound fruitful for my grandkids; we decided to put together a class about The Story of Scripture for her kids. Since we’ll be doing this via the web, we’re also checking to see if there will be other kids interested in joining. Of course, adults can tune in, too. We’re still working out details for this, but keep your eyes on this space and we’ll announce here when we get it set up.

Let’s take this time on, one day at a time, fearlessly with our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. No matter what life dishes out, he is greater and we are completely safe in his love.





10 thoughts on “Social Distancing”

  1. I disagree with your assessment of the coronavirus situation. All Christians should be business as usual in the church, hugging one another, kissing one another, shaking hands with one another and showing absolutely no fear of this virus whatsoever. God is in control of the situation and he has created one of the greatest evangelistic opportunities the world has ever seen. Because now every person in the world has their attention focused on God. This is the environment where all Christians need to display their faith in God, they’re trusting God and their belief in the miraculous. You are teaching Christian timidity. Those Christian people who get the virus and die, will be with Jesus. Those who get the virus and live will be witnesses to the world of the truth of their faith in God. This is the time to show the world our faith and not hide it under a bushel! Where is your faith, man!

    1. I hope this irony, Rodney. If you’re serious, this attitude is incredibly self-serving. This great witness you speak of, would have Christians being the primary means of spreading the virus to others. Jesus didn’t say that outlandish displays of “faith” would speak to the world of who he is, but selfless acts of love. Please rethink this, and if you can’t at least don’t share it with anyone else. I almost kept this of my blog, because I don’t want some weak brother or sister reading this and thinking that any of what you write makes any sense at all. My faith is firmly grounded in Jesus and his ability to hold his church together and make her powerful in the world even if she can’t meet on a Sunday morning. The church is a family in the world, loving well, not a meeting on Sunday morning anyway.

      1. We could go round and round about who is right and who is wrong in our thinking about this virus, but the Bible has already stated everything for us. You say, “Outlandish displays of faith.” What was the resurrection of Lazarus? What was the act of Peter walking on the water? What were all the spectacular miracles performed by Jesus and later by His disciples that were specifically based upon the faith of the person receiving the miracles? Were they not all “Outlandish displays of faith.” And, Jesus stated that we Christians would do GREATER things that these after His ascension. Plus anything that is not of faith is declared to be sin. Plus we are called to be “Witnesses” in all forms of life, especially in our faith. Plus we are reminded of all the worldly things that cannot ever separate us from the love of God, such as, pestilences (Romans 8:35-39). And, does not God’s Word tell us that He heals all our sicknesses and diseases by faith? His Word also states, “Take NO THOUGHT for your life” (Matthew 6:25-33)? Taking no thought means just that, no thought. You are teaching fear not faith, sir. God tells us He has not given Christians the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). My friend, you do not just need to read Psalm 91 in its entirety, but you need to immerse your heart and soul in it in order to overcome all the worldly thinking and false teaching you are doing. Don’t worry, God sees all the lies and deceit you are telling people through your blog and trying to set yourself up as His representative, when you are preaching false doctrine. We Christians are to be witnesses in all aspects of life and that includes defying the devil’s sicknesses and claiming our healing by faith. Even if it is only as big as a grain of mustard seed, it is still “Outlandish displays of faith” to which we are called.

        1. Those are strong accusations you make, Rodney, without even knowing me. I don’t know why people like you can’t take a breath and relax before responding as if your whole world has been threatened. So much of what you write is pulling Scripture out of context and wrapping it around a me-centered approach to God. I know many people who have met their death, “claiming their healing by faith.” Healing is not something we claim; it’s something God gives. We don’t earn it by our faith. Instead, faith allows us to trust God’s working and cooperate with it in what’s going on around us. Those who know Father and the way he works know that there is a big difference between presumption and faith. The “faith” you espouse is more like the seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19) who thought they had the power to do something they didn’t. I know Jesus still does miraculous signs and wonders and have been a party to many of them throughout my life. By “outlandish”, I meant alien, as in alien to God’s kingdom. None of the miracles you describe from the Bible are “outlandish” in that sense. I’m talking to people who want a real walk with God that can take them through crisis as well as allow them to experience his miraculous working. To help them, I do call out those who distort the true meaning of faith and concoct contrived false “miracles” meant to impress crowds but are not anything like raising the dead or walking on water. I want people to know Jesus and how to follow him, not those who want to twist Scripture to make it seem we can have whatever we want if we just have “faith” enough. That teaching leaves a host of disillusioned people in its wake and I want to encourage them back to the reality of our God whom we can know in the POWER of his resurrection, yes, but also in the fellowship of his sufferings.

          1. These different frames of thought are quite interesting. As in all things, in this season we are called to intercession and prayer. I pray that whatever our choices, we all will be brought closer into the knowledge and will of our Lord and Savior. However, I think we all will agree that there is no failure in God. He is able to do exceedingly and abundantly ABOVE what we mere men can ask or think.

            There was a time not so long ago, that Jehovah God’s Word was declared and taught in the earth with power followed by signs and wonders. Churches, pastors and spiritual leaders taught us to fast, pray and to declare things that were not as though they were according to Romans 4:17. We really believed that we could tread upon demons seen and unseen, taking authority. Manifesting miracles, signs and wonders. It is unfortunate for the Body of Christ, we are not moving in this annointing throughout the world, especially our country today and because of this we are wise to obey the laws of the land because we have failed to walk in the POWER of God. Perhaps the shutting in will cause us to cry out and take a retrospective view of how we individually have failed to keep the faith…and change!

  2. Thank you so much, Wayne! For me it is very encouraging when i read your blogs yesterday and today!
    I do not understand everything what is written here – but what i do understand really blessed me!
    This whole situation is very strange! We are so blessed to live alone in a house with a huge garden, with 3 chickens and two cats. So we can go outside and there is almost nobody around us! I can not go to the grocieries because of all sicknesses i have. My husband is doing the whole Job! And he does a really good Job! Every day he is looking for what i need! And in the last few days i can See it a little bit, that God is doing the same for me! HE is looking for what i need and HE gives me so often much more what i need! At the moment i’m very peaceful in that whole situation. And that is really a miracle for me! Also that i can see what the people are doing for me and my husband, that we have all things we really need! The medicine and food for every day! Thank you Lord! I’m so thankful the last few days! God is changing so many things in my thinking about different things, where i got so hurted from doctors and medical persons. It is still a process, but HE is in the midst of it all! It is not every day that i am so excited and that i can see HIS working so clear in me… But it’s getting better!
    Wayne, i hope and pray for you and Sarah and your family, that you’ll stay in total health and that you have a lot of fun alltogether and. you can still encouraging so many People all around the world so they wanna know this God you know and that you love! Lots of love! Maria from Sebnitz/Germany

  3. Thank you Wayne for bringing a sound minded perspective to this current crisis. I often think if we ignore the sound advice of protecting ourselves and others from potential infection all the while expecting God to protect us, then are we not guilty of tempting the Lord our God?

  4. Thanks Wayne, many of us appreciate your candor and realism regarding your past experience and willingness to speak out about false doctrinal promises. Many of us in the West and particularly America have awaked to the realization that God has blessed us so very much more than so many in other countries, but with this blessing comes responsibility. Rather than expecting more and more from God, we are more blessed when we look for ways to show deference to others for the good of all, extend kindness especially to those less fortunate, regardless of nation, tongue or tribe. That’s how I see the good news of the Kingdom that Jesus taught about!

  5. As I read where others advocate gathering together in large groups, I am reminded of 1 Cor 13:13. “and now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” So thank you Wayne for reminding and encouraging us to stay focused on who our Father is. It is encouraging to see many groups expressing love for one another. One such local church here has offered the use of their media facilities and expertise so that other pastors can share their weekly message via the internet. They’re focus seems to be on love and encouragement and less concerned with losing members or income.

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