I have given them your word. The world hated them, because they are not from the world, just as I am not from the world. I’m not asking that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one. [John 17:14-15 (NTE)]
Although we’d originally planned on a birthday dinner out with friends, we ordered a take-out lunch, did curbside pickup, and celebrated by ourselves at an isolated picnic table in the park. Coronavirus meant that disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer joined us instead of friends and family.
Yesterday was shopping day and my husband was at the grocery at 7:00 AM before most shoppers have gotten out of bed! He wore a face mask, observed social distancing guidelines, and frequently used hand sanitizer and bleach wipes. Upon his return, he showered while his clothing and mask were washed. I quarantined the boxed and canned goods on the floor of the spare bedroom, washed the produce, and disinfected the cold items before putting them into the refrigerator. Attempting to avoid contamination, there was a continual cycle of disinfecting and hand washing until everything was stowed. It’s probably overkill, but we don’t want COVID-19 to enter our home through carelessness. As I carefully disinfected the faucet, sinks, refrigerator, door knobs, kitchen counters and washed my hands yet again, I wondered if we’re as careful about keeping sin out of our lives as we are about this virus. While both are invisible, sin is even more devastating and deadly than any disease and, regardless of our age or underlying health, we’re all equally vulnerable!
We often hear it said that Christians are “to be in the world but not of the world.” Jesus wasn’t a recluse who spent the day exclusively in prayer and study. He walked, talked, taught, healed, and even socialized in the world with both the righteous and sinful, hypocrite and sincere, Jew and Gentile. Even though He was in the sinful world, however, Jesus was not of the world because He never allowed sin to contaminate Him. The vast majority of us are called to go out into the world as did Jesus rather than retreat to a contemplative monastic life. It is only when we are in the world that we can reach out to witness, teach, serve, share, heal, and love. It is only by being in the world that we can be Christ’s ambassadors: His hands and feet. But, once in the world, like Him, we are not to become part of it.
Some people describe being “in the world but not of it” like being in a boat on the water but making sure the water doesn’t get into the boat. I think it’s a bit like trying to function during a pandemic without getting infected. Of course, just as being incautious during a pandemic makes infection more likely, the more we splash around in the water, it’s more likely that some of that water will spill into the boat! It is only through God’s guidance that we can determine the line between in and of.
Jesus doesn’t want us to be contaminated by the sins of the world any more than we want to be contaminated by COVID! Are we as vigilant about avoiding dicey tempting situations as we are about crowds? Are we as wary of the media we allow into our homes as we are about packages and groceries? Are we as cautious about staying away from sin as we are about remaining six-feet away from our friends and neighbors? Do we shield ourselves from sin as readily as we don a face mask? Are we as careful about not contaminating ourselves with immorality as we are about not touching the grocery cart before it’s been disinfected? Do we wipe bad thoughts from our minds as thoroughly as we clean our kitchen counters? Are we as attentive to our prayers as we are about washing our hands?
Right now, we live in a hostile viral environment but we also live in a hostile sin-filled world. N95 masks, disinfectant wipes and hand washing won’t protect us from our most treacherous enemy: Satan. As careful as we might be about our exposure to COVID-19, what are we doing about reducing our exposure to the sins of the world? What kind of social distancing are we practicing when it comes to our real enemy?