If there was a single phrase to sum up 2020, it might be: social distancing. Not many of us could claim to have heard of such a thing before the outbreak of COVID-19, but now it’s a phrase forever burned into our memories.
Social distancing is one thing, but spiritual distancing is quite another.
In my mind, there are two ways to define spiritual distancing – one we will think about today, and the other tomorrow.
For today, spiritual distancing is a good thing, and something we do to protect our spirits from contact with unwanted things. With social distancing, we keep a physical distance from others to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. With spiritual distancing, we keep our distance from anything that might harm or negatively affect our inner man.
Don’t be deceived! “Evil companionships corrupt good morals.”
1 Corinthians 15:33 (WEB)
But refuse profane and old wives’ fables. Exercise yourself toward godliness.
1 Timothy 4:7 (WEB)
Also don’t take heed to all words that are spoken, lest you hear your servant curse you;
Ecclesiastes 7:21 (WEB)
Here are just a few verses which warn us to be very careful about what we listen to.
Washing your hands regularly, keeping at least two metres away from other people, and wearing a face mask may help to keep your body safe, but do you treat your spirit with as much care?
I have seen many social media posts and blogs suggesting we catch up on our TV streaming, bulk binge-watching episode after episode of one show or another. While I’m not against watching TV, if it is full of violence, sexual content and foul language, it is not going to build you up spiritually. Sadly, TV and movies are largely full of sinfulness and a poor excuse for entertainment.
Since our movement has been restricted in the UK, I’ve been using social media a lot more. This is largely to stay in touch with people I am not able to see at the moment. The problem with social media is that much of it is downright negative. One person complaining about another, someone moaning about the service they received in a local store struggling to cope under stockpiling pressures, and sometimes just jokes in bad taste.
There is no such thing as a spiritual face mask, or latex gloves which fend off spiritual germs. There is only one way to protect against such negatives – that is, cut it off.
If your right eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna.[i] 30 If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off, and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna.[j]
Matthew 5:29-30 (WEB)
Jesus was very clear. If there is anything in your life causing you to sin, you should get rid of it altogether, even if it costs you a great deal. It is better to go without and not sin.
Jesus may or not be talking literally here. While I am certain He does not want us harming ourselves, cutting off limbs or plucking out eyes, even that would be better than to end up in eternal punishment.
Practically, if using your laptop late at night leads you into temptation to look at web sites you should not, then get rid of that machine! If you phone causes you to sin on social media, then throw that thing out. It is better to live without a phone than sin against God.
It may sound extreme and of course, you may be able to find other ways of limiting your temptation without throwing out the device itself. The point is to do whatever it takes. Don’t play with fire. Don’t get burned by sin.
What does this look like in your life? To what do you need you ensure you have adequate spiritual distance from? Media, internet, people? Whatever it is, protect yourself! Keep a safe distance!
We spend a lot of time and effort on our bodies. We clean them, dress them, feed them and exercise them. These are all beneficial things to do. But don’t neglect your spirit. It also needs feeding with the Word of God. It needs exercising by doing good and being kind. If you wade it through the mire of sin, then there’s a chance it could get sick.
For bodily exercise has some value, but godliness has value in all things, having the promise of the life which is now, and of that which is to come.
1 Timothy 4:8 (WEB)
Paul reminds us, in his letter to Timothy, that although physical exercise is good for this life, spiritual exercise is good for both this life and the next.
The UK Government is allowing us out for one period of daily exercise. By all means, take advantage of that. But with all this extra time some of us have while in lockdown, why not take two, three or more periods of spiritual exercise as well?
What might spiritual exercise look like?
You will never have a strong relationship with Jesus unless you spend frequent time in prayer – both speaking and listening. Likewise, you can’t hope to know God and His truth unless you spend a lot of time reading and studying the Bible.
Meditation is another important discipline. Let me be clear though, I do not mean Buddhist or eastern meditation. Biblical meditation is about using your mind to think and ponder on the Scriptures. Imagine what it would be like to have been there with Christ in the flesh. Don’t empty your mind, like in eastern practices, rather fill your mind with God’s Word.
Additionally, you must fellowship with other believers. That is difficult, i’ll admit, in our current situation but not impossible. Use the phone, use social media (in a positive way) and use good old fashioned paper and pen! The Apostle Paul wrote letters which have been read for two thousand years! Now, of course, those letters were inspired by the Holy Spirit, but there’s no reason you can’t write an encouraging letter which someone will treasure.
There are many other ways we can exercise our spirits, but I want to close by asking you to exercise the fruit of love. Again, that may be more challenging in our current environment, but by no means impossible. Share God’s love with anyone and everyone you can. They need it right now, and it will do you no end of good either.
Don’t let this lockdown be an excuse for spiritual laziness! Instead, let it be the exact opposite.
Last week I recorded a short prayer video, which you can find here. I’m planning another one so would gratefully receive any prayer requests you have. Please feel free to comment below or else use the Prayer page to get in touch. Thanks.