My father died fifteen years ago. For two years, he battled cancer that ultimately took his life.
However, God was pleased to give him a new life by knowing Jesus in the process.
Each time I saw him struggling with pain, I wondered whether it was best for God to take him home. As he slowly deteriorated, I thought I was also getting ready for his departure. His death proved me wrong. I found comfort in the fact that he has been united with Jesus. However, our separation has been painful.
Children also grow, graduate, and leave home. Once again, separation is painful. While they are little, parents enjoy seeing them grow in their knowledge of Jesus, and then, increase “in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man.” As they become teenagers, a praying season begins. This time may weary some parents. Parents may be tempted to think they are ready for their child to go to college! But that day proves them wrong. Separation is still painful.
People Experience Separation
COVID-19 has brought a whole new meaning to the separation that people are experiencing. Two months ago, there were different ways to describe this word. Even today, its concept, scope, and relevance are a work in progress.
“Separation” is not only a concept but a living experience. This virus has disrupted people’s lives and brought a new set of priorities for the health system, medical procedures, family dynamics, church ministries, industry and jobs, traveling schedule, political agendas, stock market, and even food chain supply. The Coronavirus has forced everyone to realize how hurtful separation is for our daily life.
COVID has also brought another lesson. People could be physically together, though experiencing separation. The fact is that many were experiencing separation before this virus. Some husbands and wives were not sleeping together. Some children were quarantining themselves, staying in their rooms, and not eating with their parents. In some circumstances, COVID is fleshing out what has been happening in the relational realm.
I imagine everyone in this world is waiting and longing for a cure for this virus. God willing, there will be one. Nevertheless, would this vaccine also make husbands and wives sleep together again? Could this shot help a husband and wife communicate better? Or, can the cure make children get out of their rooms and change their bad attitude toward their parents? Could it help parents be better connected with their children? The answer is obvious and self-evident.
In many respects, this virus is not creating separation. Instead, it is highlighting that the separation humankind is experiencing is more profound than the social distance. We need to turn and ask God why people experience separation.
What does God have to say about the separation people experience?
The Bible teaches that people are distanced from one another because they are distanced from God. Men are distanced from God because of sin.
God created and put all things perfectly together under His headship.
- God put dirt from the soil and His breath together, and man came to life, “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature…” (Gen 2:7)
- God put a man and a woman together and made them one flesh. “Then the Lord God made a woman from the part He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man… and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:22,24b).
- God put the man and the woman in Eden, the garden of God, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden…” (Gen 2:15a)
However, sin spoiled God’s design in creation by bringing separation. When Adam and Eve sinned, “separation” became a painful reality for them and their descendants.
God had said, “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” After Adam and Eve ate from that tree, Adam said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (Gen 2:17; 3:10) Sin separated men from God.
Sin brought separation between man’s body and soul, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return…” (Gen 3:19c)
Sin brought separation between man and woman. In place of one flesh intimacy was blame shifting. Adam said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Gen 3:12)
Sin brought separation between man and his wellness: “cursed is the ground because of you….
thorns and thistles, it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread…” Moreover, “the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden…” (Gen 3:17b-19a; 23a)
Consequently, man experiences separation because he is separated from God: “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.” (Isa 59:2) At the core, separation is a spiritual issue.
Even more, sin is a “virus” far more contagious and lethal than COVID. It does not spread by contact. It is already in man’s moral DNA. “So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned… [and] death reigned.” (Ro 5:12-14)
Notice the sequence, “… sin entered the world… and [so] death…[and] death spread…death reigned” (Ro 5:12-14 NET). A spiritual COVID entered man’s DNA at the outset. And so, every single one of Adam’s descendants will test positive, and will experience separation, and will die.
Is there any hope for man to get a vaccine for his spiritual COVID?
One could start by saying that social distance is the only thing man can do to prevent the virus from spreading as quickly. Nevertheless, social distance is not the cure for COVID-19. It has no cure yet.
So it is with man’s separation from God when he is trying to bridge it on his own. Man’s “righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isa 64:6b). His best attempts will always “fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Morality, religiosity, philosophy, or good works will prove themselves wrong, and will never succeed.
Therefore, this is the final verdict for all the children of Adam: they are “separated… excluded…foreigners… without hope and without God in the world.” (Eph 2:12)
What is God’s response to man’s hopeless separation?
God Himself provided the cure. He took the separation away through the perfect work of Jesus; “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Eph 2:13). God brought men back near ”through Him,“ His Son Jesus Christ, whom He appointed, called and sent to sacrifice, suffer, die, and resurrect. The cross and the empty tomb have changed and redefined our fate.
Sin separated man from God, but Jesus “has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…” Jesus’ death on the cross fulfilled the law by paying the price required for man’s sin: Jesus set ”aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations…” By shedding His blood, Jesus completed man’s redemption, “thus making peace…” Jesus brought peace and union with God, “and in one body to reconcile [men and] God through the cross … For through Him we …have access to the Father…” Everything is now under one headship, “with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together…” (Eph 2:14-16, 20-21)
Praise the Lord! What an amazing cure! Jesus has taken away the separation that plagued us. Men can now rest secure. No more separation. Now they are together in Christ; nothing can ever get between them. And now, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation [including COVID-19], will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:35,38-39)