When we heard the voice of the Lord asking, “Who shall I send? Who will go for us?” we knew it was an invitation to step forward and say: “Here am I! Send me!” Now we have a new response: “Here’s my computer! Send an email!”
Our responsibility was “to go and tell the people” according to Isaiah (6: 8-9) but now we can tell the people without going. Social distancing isn’t a new concept introduced because of the pandemic. It’s been a growing practice since email was introduced with no need to meet or speak with people face to face! If you really don’t want to interact with someone you can send them a text message across the dining table and I know people send emails to each other in the office rather than engage in conversation.
I’m sorry, but I don’t think the kingdom of heaven is going to be delivered through an email message from my computer because the kingdom is within us (Luke 17: 21). Jesus isn’t saved on a computer ready to copy and paste into an email message, but is stored in our hearts to be shared through relationship. I am feeling guilty because I am sending more and more email messages with less and less time actually talking to people. I get a good quantity of things done because of emails, but the quality of relationships can never be as good.
My fingers on a keyboard don’t express the passion I feel or reflect any tone. The words printed on paper aren’t delivered with a smile that can be seen or in the meeting of eyes. I’m not responding with the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit or being encouraged to laugh, but I can so easily be misunderstood and sow weeds of anger instead of seeds for love to grow. I feel guilty because I am colluding with the world’s expectations to social distance with email and text and the media platforms that reach into people’s homes without knowing the people who are watching and listening.
Yes, we can tell people all about Jesus at a social distance through email and website; text messages and zoom, but we can only show how to be like Jesus in relationship with people. The praise and worship, prayers and sermons delivered through sound and vision from a distance are a wonderful invitation to seek the kingdom of God, but it is found in the heart of people as they meet and develop relationships of love and trust. So when we’ve listened to an inspiring sermon on computer or television where do people then go for personal one to one support?
We don’t fulfil the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, baptising in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Spirit and teach everything Jesus taught at a convenient social distance through our computers. Jesus will always be with us to the very end of the age through the relationships we develop with each other in person.
So, please forgive me for another email with another daily letter but it’s the quickest way to reach over 50 people. Oh no, I’m caught in that trap and I don’t know how to escape. It’s the smile, the laughter, the voice and a loving presence that reveal the kingdom of God not the email or text so I pray we don’t social distance at the expense of our mission….
I had a reminder of how human contact is so important when I visited Vicki during the week. She told me how hearing a woman laugh in the square below her flat was so uplifting. She didn’t know what the woman was laughing at but she laughed so much that it made Vicki laugh with joy. She might have danced with laughter if she could have! When we laugh and cry with each other we form relationships of love and trust so let’s find ways of getting closer to each other in these difficult times of social distancing!
God Bless, Richard