Un-Distancing Affection

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that 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, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39, NRSV)

We’re setting out for our regular evening family walk. Before we exit the driveway, I ask the kids, “Now, remind mommy and daddy of our three rules.” One of our twin five-year olds, Katarina, jumps in, “It’s my turn. Theresa said it last night.” We motion for Katarina to continue. “Number one—always listen to mommy and daddy. Number two—always stay six feet away from people and animals. And number three—always hold hands.” My wife and I nod affirmingly, and we head out the driveway.

Such are the times—and we are adjusting. We are all adjusting. A month ago we were free and dandy to come and go for our walks as we pleased. “Virus” was barely even part of our kids vocabulary. Now, when we motion from out-of-the-ordinary for them to “keep away” from something, they reluctantly reply, “is it because of the virus?” COVID has changed the way our family, society, and the world lives their day to day lives. We shout over the fence to our neighbors “hello” and “good evening,” but rarely do our day to day in-person conversations move beyond our family circle of five. “Social distancing” is no longer a psychological condition we ascribe to someone with social anxiety disorder, it’s part of our everyday way of life. These times will remain edged in our memories for the rest of our days on earth.

Writing to the church in Rome, the Apostle Paul offers assurance of victory in God and our inseparable relationship with Jesus. Christian unity is one based on the once-and-for-all-time victory of the Cross, of which there are no bounds. The Apostle’s confidence builds from his daily triumph over his own fallenness and elongating list of hardships. As he explains in his second epistle to the church at Corinth: “Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea.” (2 Corinthians 1:25, NIV). Yet, he assures us of a comparably long list of potential separators, that no longer in fact, threaten to distance us from God: “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.”

What’s the ground of this inseparability—the Cross, and more specifically, the love of God showcased on the Hill of Calvary some 2000 years ago. If God was willing to give up his own Son, to death by crucifixion (Romans 8:32), than how much more so can we take confidence in the full measure of God’s love. This love yields the victory the Cross represents—our victory over self, strife, and sickness, in the present—and the overwhelming assurance of future victory and eternal life.

During your social distancing now, you can remind yourself of the inseperableness of God’s eternal love. Allow his affection to un-distance you, and remind your kids and others of your hope as often as you tell them to “keep away.”

Published by Paul J. Palma

Paul J. Palma is a professor of Christian history and theology at Regent University. His new book, Italian American Pentecostalism and the Struggle for Religious Identity, is part of the Routledge Studies in Religion series. Paul is a contributing writer for CBN.com and the Pneuma Review. He enjoys spending quality time with his family, whether on walks together, going to the beach, fishing, or work around the yard.

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