Coronavirus and the challenge of isolation

It’s weird, it’s foreign to us! Short spells, OK, but for days or weeks, most of us are struggling to do it. We weren’t designed and made for it!

With the outbreak of coronavirus and various governments endeavours to manage it we have had to go into voluntary or legislated isolation, an isolation we’re discovering doesn’t feel right or normal, in fact it seems totally foreign to us as human beings. Whether it’s walking down the street and crossing the road to give the necessary space, or going to the shops and standing two metres apart, or having to do the same thing in your own home, or holding a conversation with someone two metres away. It’s foreign to us.

I think it was John Donne said, “no man is an island”. So true. All that is happening is a reminder that we were made for one another, for sociality. We were made social or community beings, its written into our very DNA. We were made for one another, and we need one another. We are not numbers. We are not androids. We are humans, made in the image of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

A person is only a person in relation to others and the idea of personhood as we know it derives from theologians centuries ago attempting to understand God as Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as co-equal and Co-eternal, of the same substance, yet possessing distinct personas. Three persons each indwelling the other and yet relating to one another within the divine being. The word they used to describe it was perichoresis, a beautiful word that pictures a dance where people are constantly moving in harmony and relation to one another.

We were made by God, and uniquely in the whole of creation in the image of God, and our identity and personhood is found not in our individualism but in our relation to others. In fact the concept of the Individual (with a capital) is a relatively modern Western idea. We are beings who exist in relation to others and whose lives find meaning and purpose in relation to others.

As good and useful as modern technology is whether it’s by phone, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom or any of the other available means of talking to and speaking with one another, they are no substitutes for the real thing. I thank God for them and use them.

The coronavirus and the control of it strikes at the very heart of what it means to be human, what it means to be made in the image of God.

When Jesus said “I will build my church…” he wasn’t speaking about a group of individuals who would come to know him and live and serve in isolation from one another, but of a body of people who would live in relationship to one another in him, a people who would meet and share their lives together, giving and receiving, praying and helping, worshipping and witnessing.

I pray that this season will cause us to value even more what it is to be the body of Christ, to meet together, to look one another in the eye, to value the handshake or the hug, to speak face to face, to worship together, to hear and respond to the Word together, to eat together, to pray for one another, to serve together, to play together… etc.

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