When the dust settles and life returns to the new normal, it’s almost a shoe-in that the phrase of 2020 will be “social distancing.” A concept unknown to us even six weeks ago has become perhaps the one practice that will have the greatest effect in limiting the impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic. For many, this necessary distancing has created a deep and profound sense of longing to be with others. Being isolated in our homes, communicating with the outside world through FaceTime or Zoom, and only going out when necessary (and even then distancing ourselves by six or more feet) have served to create in us a keen awareness of our need for close, immediate relationships.
Social distancing, though a new term, is not a new reality. Ever since Adam and Eve took the first bite from the forbidden tree, a relational distance was introduced. Among the consequences for their disobedience to God was expulsion from the presence of God: “He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24). Adam and Eve were removed from the garden, away from the immediate presence of God. Social distancing, indeed.
And we still feel this distance today. Down through the years, generation after generation, every person who has ever lived has felt the yearning for restoration with God. The preacher reminds us in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “he has put eternity into man’s heart.” As Augustine wrote, “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless ’til they find their rest in Thee.”
Isaiah writes, “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). There is no religious practice sufficient enough to satiate our restlessness. We can never give enough, do enough, say enough, be good enough. We are powerless to bridge the distance separating us and God created by our disobedience.
Through Jesus’ death on the cross the penalty for our sin is paid, requiring no additional offering or action on our part (Colossians 2:13–14). Not only that, but Jesus’ resurrection assures us that His death was sufficient to the Father to cover our sins, securing for us everlasting life. If Jesus was still in the grave, then His sacrifice on the cross was insufficient. But Peter reminds us that “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24).
So what does all this mean? Through our faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we become
a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9–10).
And our hearts rejoice, for the distance between us and God has been taken away. What joy when our faith will be made sight and we see with our own eyes the vision of John’s Revelation:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1–4).
So let us rejoice with overflowing hearts as we worship together, even in this time of social distancing. On Easter Sunday in our worship service sing boldly, loudly, confidently, and joyfully as you remember Jesus’ resurrection. As ambassadors of our King tell of the excellencies of His grace to those still distanced from God. We are no longer alienated from our God! Jesus has bridged the chasm through His death and resurrection. For God is our God, and we are His people. Hallelujah!