That expression and its implications is so alien for most of humankind. We were designed to do life together. Whether you live in an African tribe, or work in a high-rise office block with colleagues, live in a family, or are part of a social circle of some sort – life is better with others, and this often involves ‘closeness.’
As a Christian I find that the expression ‘keep your distance’ is on the contrary to how I usually live. I often want to ‘draw close.’ I don’t like avoiding you, or crossing the pavement from you, or not getting in the lift if you are already using that ‘space.’ My natural instinct is to get in that lift and chat with you, pass the time of day with you and make you feel valued.
The expression ‘keep your distance’ is one that we might use on the rare occasion where we might be better being careful of someone in order that we don’t get hurt. (‘I think I will keep my distance for a while’). It’s the exception rather than the general rule.
Covid19 pandemic that has swept the whole globe has needed us to take action and form social bubbles and keep safe distances from others in the workplace and in the supermarket and every other public place.
‘Keeping myself to myself’ is quite comfortable to some who choose to live in isolation and independence, or as a recluse, but for most of us its tough.
How do we stay close when we can’t ‘get close?’
One relationship that is not restricted legislation and social distancing guidelines is our connection with God. Rather than keeping a distance, God encourages us, without risk, to draw close; as close as we are willing to come! James writes in his epistle ‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.’ James 4:8
Wow! No mask, no distancing, just simply coming to God as we are.
After Jesus’ death, when some confused and disheartened disciples were walking to Emmaus, it says of Jesus, ‘Jesus Himself drew near.’ He walked with them, chatted with them and stayed with them. Then their eyes were opened, and they ‘saw’ Him and realised He was alive again! He came close. He always did. He never crossed the street. He always touched people and let them reach out to Him.
That’s the exception to the ‘Keep your distance’ rule, and how amazing that we can come close and feel Jesus’ care for us in these times.