Pastor Note #97: A Christian Rationale for Social Distancing in a Time of Pandemic

Photo by GAC

Medical experts widely agree that the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is spread by minute droplets of saliva and mucus that come out of the mouth and nose of someone who is infected by the virus.  Those droplets contain the virus.  The viruses in those droplets find their way into the eyes, nose, or mouth of another person, and in that way the other person also becomes infected.

There are two common ways by which the virus gets from the infected person into another person:

1) Those virus-containing droplets that come out of an infected person’s mouth can hang in the air for a while.  While they are floating in the air, they can be breathed in by another person, especially if the people are standing close to each other.  And if that happens, then that other person will become infected too.

2) Those virus-containing droplets will collect on the clothing and hands of an infected person.  If another person comes into physical contact with an infected person, the viruses can easily be transferred through that contact onto the hands of the non-infected person, who can then unwittingly transfer them to their own eyes, nose, or mouth and so become infected themselves.

An infected person is contagious for several days before they show any symptoms of Covid-19.  That means that no one can know for sure at any given moment whether they are contagious or not.  If you wait until you have symptoms before you take precautions, it’s already too late.  You will have been spreading the virus around for several days at that point.


Photo by GAC

For these reasons, health experts wisely recommend that everyone should always assume that they might be contagious and take precautions to protect the other people around them.  The most important reason for practicing social distancing precautions is love—love for the people around you.  Jesus commands us to love our neighbors.  If we love someone, we will do all that we reasonably can to make sure that we don’t get them sick.  Social distancing is an act of love.  Fear is not the reason why Christians should practice social distancing.  For a follower of Jesus, fear has nothing to do with social distancing.  It’s all about love, loving my neighbors by trying not to make them sick.

Here’s how you love people during a time of pandemic:

Physical Distance

Stay at least six feet away from others.  Experts have found that those minute droplets rarely travel more than six feet before gravity pulls them down.  If you stay at least six feet away from others, you can generally feel confident that you are keeping them safe from any virus droplets that might come from you.  Fear has nothing to do with physical distancing.  Staying six feet away from others is a good way to tell them that you love them and are trying to keep them safe.  It’s all about love.

No Physical Contact

As I mentioned above, if you have the coronavirus, the virus will certainly be on your clothes and on your hands.  If you touch another person, you will certainly transfer the virus to that person’s body also.  Shaking hands and hugging are two particularly effective ways of transferring the coronavirus from one person to another.  In the past, shaking hands and hugging were two excellent ways to show respect and affection for another person.  In these times, it is just the opposite.  In these times, NOT shaking someone’s hand and NOT hugging them are acts of love and respect.  If you want to show that you care about someone, DON’T touch them.  In a time of pandemic, NOT touching is a deeply affectionate act.  Again, this has nothing to do with fear and everything to do with love.

Wear a Mask

As I said at the start, virus-bearing droplets come out of our mouth and nose.  The simplest and most effective way to stop those droplets from getting into the air is to cover our mouth and nose with a mask.  I wear a mask to protect you.  Wearing a mask is a badge of love.  Wearing a mask says that you love the people around you enough to make a serious effort to keep your viruses to yourself.  Fear has nothing to do with mask-wearing.  You wear a mask because you love the people around you, and do not want to get them sick.  If you love the people around you, you will wear a mask.

Churches are to be the visible embodiment of God’s love.  People should be able to look at a church and see it full of visible expressions of love.  In a time of pandemic, that love should be very easy to see.  That love will be seen by the fact that in the church people keep six feet apart because they love each other.  That love will be seen by the fact that in the church people do not touch each other.  That love will be seen by the fact that in the church people are wearing masks of love.  Fear has nothing to do with any of this.  IT IS ALL ABOUT LOVE.

© 2020 Gary A. Chorpenning; all rights reserved.

See also:

Pastor Note #96: Why I Wear a Mask–My Badge of Love



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