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Don't Waste Your Quarantine

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At the time of this writing, the state of Illinois has at least 5 more weeks to shelter-in-place from the devastation of the global pandemic caused by COVID-19.  If this news is sinking in to the point of panic and desperation, you should really call someone. Don't try to deal with the shock and languishing alone. Don't be too proud to ask for help like a meal. Even roped off from each other like this, we can still hold through this both as humans and as a Christian community. Don't let yourself be lost to others. 

There are a myriad of ideas that you can find for occupying your time just by scrolling through your social media or doing some simple searches or even watching the news. I won't intrude on those ideas. I'm more interested though in what's happening to your soul and how you're handling what seems to be "more" time. 

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

(Ephesians 5:15–16 ESV)

  1. Draw closer to God, and he will draw closer to you. He isn't as far off as you may think. God isn't a divine patrolman only monitoring what you're doing. Though he knows, he's near because of relationship. There is intimacy to be hand with the Almighty that you don't yet know about it. Give him the time of day, and you'll see.

  2. Pay attention to what you pay attention to. More on this below, but "mind your head" (as they say in the UK). If you don't make a plan for how you're going to use your time and your screens, you'll likely give in to almost anything that comes across your mental table. Plan breaks against and from distractions. Just because the walls seem to be closing in on you, doesn't mean they actually are. Redeem the time has the idea of buying it back. Make time your servant. Boredom doesn't have to fought. It can be plainly avoided. Schedule more rest time while God is allowing this forced Sabbath. But don't think for a second that God's Law is cooped up in a box somewhere (like we are). His rules stand fast even during this difficult time. Be renewed in the spirit of your minds (Ephesians 4:24).

  3. Draw closer to one another. This almost goes without saying. There seems to be more time so that we can casually re-connect or dive deeper with family and friends. While everyone might be living the introvert's dream these days, we cannot be relationally isolated. Don't wait for someone to reach out to you (as if they owed you). For older people, this may be a good time to fumble around with the technologies to get closer to the younger people in your family or church. For younger people, it could very well be therapeutic to your 'system' to write a short card or letter to a relative or an older person in the church. God knew that his image-bearers at this point in history would be going through this global quarantine. His image in us is resilient enough to still reflect the radiance of relationships. Go for it!

  4. Question yourself before you post. While there's alot of good stuff out there being produced around the clock, there's that doubly more junk to sift through. Junk in the sense of morally reprehensible or questionable, but 'junk' in the sense of time wasting. I thank God especially for trash collectors these days, but can you imagine what would happen if they stopped coming by? We don't really have internet trash collectors (thanks, Freedom of Speech!), so you've got to do your own filtering. Be rigorously discriminating. In addition to the verse quote above, how about the one below? Ask yourself if it's really worth it to post whatever it is you feel like post. Give yourself a limit. Remember: other people are either going to be bettered or potentially battered by it.

This quarantine isn't to be wasted. Make the most of it. Ask someone to hold you accountable for the next 5 weeks. if the last five have been a wash, then, suit up! Go to war and have fun!

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8 NLT)

Leviticus, Coronavirus and Good Friday

This past week, my Bible reading plan took me through Leviticus 13 and 14. It struck me like never before the parallels there are to our current situation of a global pandemic. This won’t be a detailed article or exposition of these chapters, but I want you to make some enlightening if not transformative connections. I would like to do so  through three parallels: light, tight and eternal. 

Light

None of these parallels come through adhering to the exact levitical prescriptions. These two chapters would fall generally under a simple heading of “ceremonial” laws. What in the past has seemed to me archaic or strange all of a sudden jumped off the page to me in April of 2020. The surprising connection I made this week is the use of the word or idea of ‘quarantine’ (using the Christian Standard Bible translation, 13:5, 21, 31, 33, 46, and 14:8 speaking of humans; 13:50 and 54, referring to fabrics or materials). Check this out— “The person who has a case of serious skin disease is to have his clothes torn and his hair hanging loose, and he must cover his mouth and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’ He will remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He must live alone in a place outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:45-46). The sobering part of this is that the diseased person had to voluntarily proclaim his uncleanness, and he had to temporarily dwell in a designated sanitarium away from the rest of the populace. The ‘light’ connection here is the fact that the society of the redeemed (Israel) practiced a kind of social distancing and isolation of certain infirmed people who had conditions that were ‘spreading’ on their own bodies. 

Tight

A closer or tighter connection I made was through the question: ‘how do these detailed prescriptions about cleansing from disease’ relay back to the BIG (10) commandments or the Great commandments? While I’m still mulling over how skin disease laws connect to the 10, it became clear that the practice of quarantine assumedly also targeted the whole ‘camp’ of Israel, that is, the greater good of the whole nation. The meticulous check ups with a priest, the separation of the sick from the healthy and the days of waiting weren’t about shaming the sick but loving the (still healthy) neighbor. “Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18).” What seems odd or outmoded to our modern sensibilities was actually understandable in the ancient Near Eastern culture that Israel inhabited. In fact, it was a kind of “higher road” among the nations which makes for yet another tight connection to the supreme commandment. The God of Israel is a holy God, and he was intending to make a holy people unlike the rest of the nations around them. To quarantine oneself, test a piece of fabric or remove a mildewed stone from one’s house wasn’t merely appeasing the demands of a whimsical deity. It was an act of devotion to the one true God. It was faith in action. And, so were the consequent sacrifices made for purification from diseases. Ancient Israel’s skin disease protocols and the global/national/local protocols being issued ultimately are for the safety and good of the whole. No one likes our current immobility; this imposed asylum that seems more insane with every passing day. But, it’s NOT new and in God’s common grace to the whole world he created, it is loving our neighbors.

Eternal

The uncanny parallel of greatest significance is that the Coronavirus global pandemic is a small scale of the universality of sin and the depravity of every human being. See how some airborne particles at a family reunion can infect a dozen and kill a couple? Well, multiply that exponentially to the human race of all time past, present and future, and you have a global killer on your hands. The insidious part is that many people experience the effects of it but are helpless, blind and unable to tie it back to the original carrier and/or helplessly grope for a patch to fix it. Patches are useless on corpses.

Sin kills everyone. We come into this world with a death sentence (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:1-2). You can’t throw enough money, research, technology, education, isolation or unification at global a killer as toxic and viral as sin. It’ll never reach the infinitely bottomless coffers of God’s demands. 

The skin/material disease protocols of ancient Israel were ‘lifted’ by the slaughter of animals. These sacrificial rites of purification (Leviticus 14:5, 13, 19, 25, 29, 31) were a right back into the covenant community as a clean citizen. The ‘atonement’ was the price of redemption or reconciliation to your home and tribe and nation. 

But, God the Holy Spirit, all along was making it clear even in Leviticus that such ceremonial prescriptions were just ‘physical’ in nature. The accompanying sacrifices for cleansing and transition back into “normality” couldn’t cleanse the conscience perfectly (Hebrews 9:8ff). Built into those laws was a momentary pragmatism that couldn’t atone for what couldn’t be seen or healed (Hebrews 9:13).  

We Need ‘Bigger Guns’

As unpleasantly disruptive and lethal as COVID-19 is, and as distantly quirky the Levitical laws seem to us, Good Friday layers over them like a diamond on its black felt background. Our efforts to make the world a better place are like taking spit wads to the rock of Gibraltar. Coronavirus or the next virus and the next one aren’t anything compared to the devastation of sin. We need to call in the ‘big guns’. ‘Big guns’ are needed for big problems. And, that is the point of Hebrews when it says: “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God?” (9:14). Jesus’ death is what saves. It’s a big gun. In fact, the only one.

As a Christian, you may be bummed to have to watch a Good Friday or Easter service as if you’re streaming Hulu. But, maybe, you and I can get over the effects of this pandemic and see God teaching and reminding us of great eternal truths. Maybe, just maybe, the Holy Spirit is using global disruption to cleanse his people’s consciences from the dead weight we feel in ourselves these days to prepare us for more pure and vibrant service to our living God. 

This Good Friday will be unforgettable, but let the greatest remembrance be that the blood of Jesus spoke to us a better word than the tireless glows of streamed church gatherings or distant religious rituals ever could.