I hate this separation that the COVID virus is causing around the world. Don’t get me wrong; this is not a political statement, nor am I criticizing the medical experts. I totally understand the medical reasoning for social distancing right now.
However, this separation sucks!
I don’t know if I should shake someone’s hand as a sign of friendship when I first see them or if I should avoid all physical contact out of concern for the spread of the virus.
Social distancing is the perfect metaphor to describe what it feels like to be far from God. Not being able to hug or touch someone is really challenging when you love them. Like looking at a loved one behind a glass window in a prison visitation room, standing 6 feet apart feels like a form of torture.
I can remember exactly what this felt like during my combat tours. I recall how challenging it was to listen to my family over the phone or to see them on a video screen while I was halfway across the globe. That longing to hold my family will stay with me for the rest of my life.
I’m trying to paint the picture of a barrier that you can see but cannot cross. It’s a picture of a spiritual barrier. With the rest of this article, I want to describe what spiritual separation from God feels like, and how to close that gap.
My neighbors lived 6’ away when Jesus reached me
When I was 13 years old, I lived in an apartment complex in the suburbs of Nashville, TN. My neighbors lived 6 feet away from me…literally. (I didn’t take out a tape measure and check the distance between their front door and mine, but you get the picture.)
Their door was directly across the hall from my front door in this little apartment building, and although there was only 6 feet of separation between the two apartments, there was a huge spiritual gap between me and my neighbors.
This young Christian couple had a rock-solid faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I, however, didn’t really have a church background, nor did I understand the basics of the faith. This couple was spiritually miles ahead of me when they came to my apartment to talk to me about Jesus.
Looking back on this event today, I can see how far they reached across social and economic gaps to explain the gospel to me. I still remember the questions that I had that night when this couple shared their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ with me.
I didn’t have their biblical or church foundation, so I had many questions. They patiently, graciously dealt with each of my questions. Although they didn’t know all of the answers, they dealt with every question seriously. By the time they left my apartment that night, they closed a huge spiritual gap for me by answering my questions.
They explained, in very simple terms, how Jesus crossed an unbridgeable gap to reach me in my sin, a gap that Jesus describes in Luke 16:26. My neighbors helped me understand that no greater gap existed than the one between a holy God and a sinful person like me.
I believe that Jesus uses language of a huge chasm in Bible passage to give the imagery of a Grand Canyon-wide gap, a separation that no human could possibly cover on their own. Because I couldn’t bridge the gap between me and God by my own religious efforts or good deeds, Jesus took the initiative and crossed that chasm to get to me!
This is the language that the prophet Azariah uses in 2 Chronicles 15:2 when he says, “The Lord is near to you when you are near to him”. (I don’t normally put emphasis on certain Bible words, but I need you to focus on the word near in this verse. God closes the gap and draws nearer to those who will draw near to him through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus.)
Why I would dislocate my shoulder to reach others
I often think of my neighbors and their willingness to put themselves in an awkward situation to talk to me about their faith. I distinctly remember how nervous this couple was when they sat at my dining room table and shared their faith in Jesus Christ with me.
In fact, I still to this day remember thinking, something is wrong with these two; why are they acting so weird? I realize now it was because they were nervous during this conversation. However, in spite of this, that couple lovingly shared their faith with me in such a way that Jesus saved me later that night.
More than once, it has crossed my mind, what would I be like today if that couple didn’t go 6 feet across the hall and come to my door to share their faith with me? I would be a totally different person today (probably a terrible person) if it wasn’t for that couple.
Azariah felt the same way about his neighbors and brothers in 2 Chronicles 15:2. He put himself in an awkward situation when he shouted this message to his bothers in Judah and Benjamin because he wanted all of his friends to get close to God.
Azariah didn’t want his friends or brothers confused about what it looks like to draw near to Christ. Therefore, he put it plainly in the rest of this verse, “If you seek him, he will be found by you. But if you abandoned him, he will abandon you.”
Azariah was willing to put himself in an awkward situation to share his faith with his brothers and friends in Judah and Benjamin. My neighbors were willing to place themselves in a very uncomfortable situation to share their faith with me.
How could I not do for others what someone once did for me? I would be willing to dislocate my shoulder (physically and metaphorically speaking) to reach someone who is far from Jesus. I hope you feel the same way.
How you can extend your “reach”
If Jesus has saved you also, you have a story to tell. In fact, it’s the most important story anyone will ever hear. Maybe you feel like my neighbors at the idea of sharing your story with other people. Or, perhaps you need to be reminded how powerful your story is.
Take a moment and read this blog from my friend, Paul Amos, about the power of your story. This article will help you cross the 6′ gap with someone who is far from Jesus.
The church I lead, 2 Cities Church, is passionate about helping people find and follow Jesus. As a result, we’ve created a very simple digital discipleship course called Basic Training. This is a four-step method to help you become effective at sharing Jesus with other people.
If you haven’t gone through some kind of biblical training to help you share your faith, go through our Basic Training course. It will help you extend your reach!
Here’s a link to this free resource. I hope it will help you reach people who are far from God, even if they live in your home or work in your office. If you want more information, check out our recent sermon about reaching FAR.
 Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2020), 2 Ch 15:2.