Archive for June 30th, 2020

We regularly see the markers on floors of public buildings to keep the “social distance” of six feet away. These are the two of the markers at the YMCA of which I am member. I was taken aback and had to take the photos above! I guess the “Y” here is still maintaining a patina of the “C” in the original letters: Christian. But can you have peace and love and distance, or more precisely at a distance? More pointedly, can you love your neighbor from “six feet away”? How about sixty feet? How about sixty miles? Six hundred miles? I just saw a former co-worker of mine, a sweet RN, at the local farm stand. We were both wearing masks and she smiled and she said, I wish we could hug, so she gave me a pantomimed hug. Yeah, I guess she showed her love from six feet away. I smiled, I appreciated it and yet I stood there like a lump, weirded out by having yet another surreal covid moment that we’ve all had.

Now the encouragement to “love your neighbor” is not exactly the Biblical commandment which is “love your neighbor as yourself“. Quite frankly, I want to love my neighbor from six feet away, better six hundred miles away. Then I may have a loving feeling here and there every now and then, but six feet or further away, I don’t have to get close in all the mess of my neighbor’s life. I can send in my donation. But when I am messed up, I need a neighbor close up, not standing at a distance but in a good sense in my face to help bear my burden. This is why the Lord’s command IS “Love your neighbor as yourself” and it becomes hard, bearing a cross; and the rewrite of the commandment to “love your neighbor” is easy and can be done with some distance and be an encouragement to social distance even more.

There is really no social distance in love, the real stuff. The closest word to the verb “love”, in the Bible is “serve”. You can’t serve too well some one in need by a wave of the hand and a broad smile or a pantomime. You are not loving your neighbor too well when you think government can do a neighbor’s deed of love. Or injured in a car accident and no one wants to touch you. The real deeds of love are epitomized in Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37. I bet the Pharisee and the Levite had all sorts of love for their neighbor. Maybe they were returning from Jerusalem after their task force to serve victims of violence on the Jericho Road. It was a despised Samaritan who got down and dirty with the half-dead Jew on the side of the road. Jesus sort of change the noun “neighbor” into a verb. I don’t think you can love at a distance.

One more thought: as a Lutheran we believe, teach and confess it is Biblical that we are saved by faith alone by grace alone known through Scripture alone on account of Christ alone. It is. We use the Latin word for “alone” and call these the “solas”. The reason the Lord did this is He has loved us up close and personal, not at a social distance but on the Cross, in His blood shed for His enemies, that is, me. Here we find out that the other solas are rooted in the Lord’s love…alone: John 3: 16. I think we should another “sola”: we love in the Lord’s love alone, sola. Not my naked, selfish love but in His self-giving love (agape) sola for me and you and not at a distance.

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