Our family began the practice of physical distancing just under four weeks ago. I prefer the term ‘physical distancing’ over the COVID-19 identified practice of social distancing because although we have removed ourselves from being in the physical presence of nearly everyone in our important and precious life circles, we haven’t stopped engaging with them, caring for them, or loving them.
The coronavirus pandemic may have curtailed our physical engagement, but never the love and devotion. It’s our love and devotion for our family and friends that have influenced us to be faithful and true to the shelter-in-place call.
We don’t like being separated like this – especially since we are so close in proximity to our family and friends. It’s crazy. For much of our lives, our family lives life on another continent far out of reach of our stateside family and friends. Due to travel restrictions, though, our family remains in the United States – just miles away from our family and friends. Believe it or not, nine out of 12 pieces of our luggage are all packed and ready for a future departure to South Africa. We unpacked three pieces of luggage to live out of for this sheltered-in-place moment? Month? Season? Quarter? Who knows??? Life is interesting, isn’t it? 😊
And while our family is here, we will do the best we can to be agreeable, caring, supportive, patient and kind with one other.
The Apostle Paul was familiar with living in confinement. Much of his writings were letters penned in his own shelter-in-place scenario.
In his writing to believers scattered about Rome, Paul understood their challenge and need. There was no single Roman Christian congregation. Instead, Roman believers gathered in different homes all over the city. It was in these house churches that they worshiped, prayed, and sought their God together during a dangerous time. Persecution against the Christian faith was escalating when Paul wrote to the Roman believers at the start of the Emperor Nero’s diabolical reign. In addition to these malevolent outside pressures, conflicts arose within these small house churches between Christians with Jewish origins and Christians with Gentile roots. For these reasons and more, Paul’s letter to the Romans includes instructions for Jewish and Gentile Christians on how-to-live in harmony and properly worship God as a new culture – together – in spite of their differences, their dangers, and their confinement.
With these shelter-in-place believers in mind Paul penned these instructive words:
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
New International Version, Romans 12:16
Another version says it this way:
Live happily together. Don’t try to act big. Don’t try to get into the good graces of important people, but enjoy the company of ordinary folks. And don’t think you know it all!
The Living Bible, Romans 12:16
Is this possible?
How do we live in harmony with one another – especially at a time when we are shut up and sequestered away from our normal ways of doing life?
The exhortation is clear.
Do not be proud.
In other words, don’t be too full of yourself.
Don’t be a know-it-all.
Don’t take up residence with self-conceit.
Give up all manners and airs of self-importance.
Humility is the fear of the Lord;
its wages are riches and honor and life.
New International Version, Proverbs 22:4
True confidence cannot be placed in our own ability to think or act. We’re fallible. We believe we know what is best for not only ourselves, but everyone else. Unfortunately, our self-imposed hindrance to demonstrating humility is our own self-centered, selfish, self-conceited mindset.
King Solomon understood our foolishness.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your navel
and nourishment to your bones.
New International Version, Proverbs 3:8
King Solomon suggests that just as the umbilical cord is the only source of life and growth for an unborn child in his mother’s womb (with which the navel was a part), so also is the wisdom that comes from God. Wisdom is the only source of life-giving, life-sustaining growth for the child of God. Without seeking the wisdom and counsel of God, we have no chance of living in harmony and in peace with others. It is the fear of the Lord that enables us to live without pride, high-mindedness, and vain conceit.
It is the fear of the Lord that influences us to avoid and abstain from sinful behavior – like pride.
King Solomon says we need to shun every form of evil in our lives.
And that evil starts with our own self-exaltation and delusion that we have the answers to everything – because we are the answer. Is this difficult for us to admit?
I confess that I like to have the answers.
I acknowledge that I want to be self-confident and assured in my life choices and decisions.
I desire to be self-governing in my mind and showing self-control in my behavior.
Is there anything wrong with these thoughts or behaviors?
Only if we lift ourselves and our thinking above the wisdom and guidance of our God – believing we know what is best.
So, I have some questions for myself in this regard – and maybe these questions are for you, as well…
Do I act independently of my God in any way?
Do I acknowledge God and ask for his help when I need direction?
Do I value self-sufficiency over dependence upon my God?
Do I think I am so wise and so able as to conduct my affairs without God’s counsel or support?
Do I believe that it’s up to me to provide for myself in all things and at all times?
Do I need to be in control?
Am I willing to subject myself to the divine will of God?
Do I trust God for my life?
How I answer these questions determines whether I am seeking God for his help and care. How I respond to these reflections helps me understand if I am putting my relationships with others in jeopardy as well. Because if I think I have the answers to this-that-or-basically-every-teeny-tiny-thing, I’ll want to be in control of how everything plays out in our lives, too. This behavior is prideful. I’m not being considerate of others. I am harming them. I am discouraging them. I am belittling them, too.
What am I being?
So, again, I ask.
What is the answer to living in harmony with others?
The answer is found in seeking the wisdom of God. Like marrow strengthens the bones, the wisdom of God brings strength, calmness, composure, and governance to the mind, body and soul. Wisdom instructs our words. Wisdom informs our behavior. Wisdom tempers our thoughts. The wisdom of God shows us how to live with others in peace.
Isn’t wisdom what we most need as we shelter-in-place together?
Seek the wisdom of God.
Trust Him to guide you.
Ask Him to show you how to live during these days.
Our family is doing this as best we can – as we live out of three pieces of luggage – and wait for this moment(?), month(?), season(?), or quarter(?) of time to end. And when it does, we want to demonstrate that we were and are loving, caring, and harmonious in our relationships – seeking the wisdom of God.