Social Distancing

Beijing, China - where social distancing is working

Jesus’ disciples would rather go to Wuhan, China in the middle of the Coronavirus outbreak than to Samaria. This fact sets up the story of how Jesus met a woman at the well. (John 4:5-42).They knew that when Jesus got to Jerusalem he would be dismissed because he took the shortcut through a despised territory, he shook hands with a quarantined people, and, worst of all, he communed with a Samaritan woman. If there is anything that the last three years has taught us, it is how to think like one of Jesus’ disciples before he died on the cross for the world. Fearing others brings out the worst in us.

Social distancing has long been practiced in religious communities. Long before we began quarantining cruise ships for fear of the virus, we caged children on the border. We pulled away from treating LGBTQ people as fellow travelers on a similar spiritual journey. We kept people of color from buying homes in our neighborhood. We put Japanese Americans into internment camps and Native Americans onto reservations.

Yes, the current Coronavirus epidemic is real, deadly, and we must urgently work to mitigate its spread. We will all be sacrificing our individual freedoms in order to preserve the common good. But, let us pause at this moment and reflect on the fact that our previous prejudices were sinful. We have not behaved as Jesus has called us to behave. We have not sat down at the well of the stranger and talked about our shared spiritual journey. We have paid more attention to our religious rituals, doctrines, and segregating practices, than to the gospel of love. We have become insensitive to the needs of marginalized people and the refugee. We are like disciples who do not know the power of Good Friday.

Remember how Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan(Luke 10:25-37). The priest and the Levite who walked by, committed three sins: 1) They failed to be compassionate, 2) They lacked the basic human curiosity and desire to stop and learn what troubled the man who was lying on the other side of the road, 3) They thought their ends, or the goal of worshiping in the perfect temple, would justify the cruelty of their means, or inaction. These three sins Jesus un-did by stopping and talking to the woman at the well in Samaria. He acted according to the healing process which would bring salvation to all who asked. He listened and was curious to know the woman’s experience. He showed compassion.

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