“And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals;
for it was cold:
and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself.” -John 18:18
New term. New technology. Old temptation.
Social distancing may be a new term, but it’s an old concept that many are already good at practicing. People naturally ignore people. Or at least make them feel ignored.
Technology has become the faux (foe) friend of society. Steadily, it has replaced confrontational interactions with a two-dimensional image of the world. That 2D image has us thinking of people and friendships as a tool that we control, rather than a privilege we enjoy.
Our screened devices make us feel safer from having to deal with raw humans. That feeling is about as robust as a screen door. You can be touched a lot easier than you think you can.
So we understand the term and the technology– What is the overwhelming temptation when you are getting the cold shoulder from people who you care about? How does it make you feel when people look at you like you’ve got the plague? How can you combat the spiritual coldness that comes as a side-effect of social distancing?
Peter got the chills when he watched his Lord surrender without a fight to the mob that would soon murder Him. Peter felt betrayed, and as the chill settled on his soul, he succumbed to the temptation equivalent of frost-bite: bitterness.
Peter was warming himself by a fire to warm his flesh, but he was keeping company with those who were laughing at and abusing his best friend, Jesus. His church family (the disciples) had all run away, and Peter didn’t feel like being alone. Peter became bitter when he could have been blessed.
Peter walked in ungodly counsel
“Then took they him (Jesus), and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off.” – Luke 22:54
When the situation began to fall apart, Peter let too much distance between himself and the Lord. That is what ‘ungodly counsel’ will tell you to do. When things get stressful, take some time off, take care of number one; after all, you deserve some ME time.
Daily interactions with people are important. Persecuted Christians from every period of church history have reported that all of the most severe forms of torture include isolation. No one knows. No one cares. Despair is an enemy of gigantic proportions, crushing the spirit with those thoughts. Communicating with other people is important to maintain sanity.
If daily interactions with people are important, daily interactions with God are vital. His counsel is always right, He will never lie to you. Keeping company with Him is the only sure way to protect from the biting cold of loneliness. Distancing yourself from Him will leave you in bad company.
Peter stood in the sinners’ way
“And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of his disciples? He denied it, and said, I am not.” – John 18:25
Peter’s witness began to fade away as his heart grew even colder toward the Lord. The icy stares of the group he stood with were met with an equally icy testimony. “But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.” – Mark 14:71
Did we really need an excuse to become MORE chilly in our witness? People need the Lord now more than ever. We don’t need to be like them, but we ought not to shy away from being among them. We are in the world, but not of it.
No doctor can practice ‘social distancing’ and do his job. His oath implies that he will be vulnerable in order to save lives. I thank God for them. Jesus Christ, the great physician, lived among us. We touched him, and He touched us. I am forever indebted to Him for allowing me to come close to Him. His touch warms and heals every part of your being. But standing by the denier’s fire? That’s the definition of hell freezing over. (See Proverbs 15:11)
Peter sat in a scornful seat
“Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.” – Matthew 27:69-70
How quickly the hypothermia chokes the life out of poor Peter! He joined into the jeering, and sadly, he fit in quite well with that wicked crowd. Peter fell, and fell hard into this sin.
The opposite of scorn is praise. When we fail to walk with God, we will not witness of Him, until eventually, He means nothing to us. Our worship reaches absolute zero on the Kelvin scale when we fail to acknowledge what God has done for us, and what His Word says for us to do for Him.
The Apostle Paul exhorts Christians not to forget a healthy habit. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25) If our fellowship grows cold, and we allow ourself to become distant from God’s chosen place of worship, we by default have chosen the devil’s fire to soothe our stinging conscience. Forsaking God’s folks is never healthy.
I understand the recommendations to quarantine(03-19-2020). We should not use social distancing as an excuse to join the world in spiritual distancing. Why? Because as much as someone’s health may depend on the first, someone’s eternal destiny depends upon the second. If Christians don’t witness through this dilemma, how believable will they be AFTER?
Let’s choose instead to be blessed. Walk daily with the Lord. Stand up for Christ, and be a vocal witness. Sit where you ought to sit- be in church if you can, but dedicate time to worship God no matter the circumstance.