Have you ever been in a “Long distance relationship?” Maybe some of you would say, I don’t believe “Long distance relationships” can work, and that’s fair. It is possible, those who do not believe such relationships are viable stem from past painful experiences. It is also possible, those who have a more favorable stance on this subject have had a more successful experience from it. Maybe, some of you reading this article just want to be “Switzerland.” Wherever you stand on this topic, whatever favorable, non-favorable or neutral views you may have, it is fair to say that social-distancing is causing many of us to learn how to maintain our relationships from a distance.
Many relationships are being put through the test right now (marriages, friendships, parenting professional ones etc.) as a result of social-distancing. Also, social-distancing is keeping many relationships apart, and people have to find creative ways to spend time together, communicate, and interact. For example, last week, one of my neighbors could not celebrate their child’s birthday how they wanted to, but the whole neighborhood managed to get in their car and drive by their house while honking their horns and screaming happy birthday. Frankly, it was really loud and unorthodox, but given the circumstances no one was really bothered. When I see the ingenuity of our fellow human beings and how we all strive to maintain our relationships and social life while social-distancing, I am reminded of Paul’s words in Col. 2:5, “For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.”
“To be absent in the body, but present in the spirit.” This powerful statement could not be any truer right now, especially for the Church. Understanding that we may not be present physically we are still connected, united and empowered by one Spirit – the Holy Spirit. Most of Paul’s epistles, such as the book of Colossians, were written to encourage brothers and sisters who were far away from him. Although they could not see his face in the flesh (Col 2:1), his letters served as a conduit to help maintain and strengthen his long distance relationship with several Churches. With modern day technology, we tend to shy away from writing letters or cards to other people, because it is easier and much faster to text, facetime (or video call for those non-iPhone users) and interact using our gadgets. Whatever mode of communication, whatever electronic infrastructure we are currently using to maintain our relationships, nothing is as powerful as the Spirit that unites us together.
Again, Paul reminded his audience the urgent need to keep encouraging each other, loving one another, and growing in their knowledge of the Word (Col. 2: 2). However, without the Holy Spirit none of this is really possible. There are many descriptions of the Holy Spirit (read Isaiah 11:2 and Gal 5: 22 – 25), but I prefer to understand the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Love. Love is what holds us together, no matter how far apart we are from each other. Love will always transcend time and space, especially during this crisis. When the Church in Corinth was fighting over who had the greatest spiritual gift, Paul unequivocally said the greatest one is love (1 Cor. 13). Although we are absent in the body, let us continue to be present in the Spirit of Love, because love is woven within the very fabric that holds families, communities, Churches, and even our society together. In the words of the late iconic Bob Marley, “One Love, One Heart, let’s get together and feel alright.”
Grace and Peace