Social, But Not Spiritual, Distancing
The other day, I was listening to a pastor argue that the only true fellowship is person to person, that despite restrictions and disease, churches must keep their doors open and Christians must meet in person, "not neglecting to meet together..." (Hebrews 10:25, ESV).
Now, I'll readily admit that in-person fellowship and meeting together is not only better but the biblical norm. But is it the only connection that Christians have? The apostle Paul would disagree: “For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ” (Colossians 2:5).
Even though Paul and the Colossian Christians were separated by distance, there was still a connection. And what was that connection? Paul says "in spirit." Does he mean that in some vague manner, as we sometimes use the term? Not at all. In Greek, the definite article precedes the word, and it could easily be translated as "the Spirit." A little later in the same epistle, Paul says, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:3-4).
We know this theology. Here and elsewhere, Paul teaches that we have died with Christ on the cross and we will be raised with him glory. We are united to Christ through faith, and it's the Holy Spirit who does the uniting.
We really do have a connection, and it isn't based on physical proximity. It's based on being in Christ together. We are hidden with Christ in God. It's that reality that makes our fellowship real, not simple physical proximity, as sweet as that may be.
In our virtual meetings, we are not simply interacting with digital images. When the pastor prays and we join in, we are doing it together. That's real fellowship because we are all present before Christ. If we are studying the Bible together in a Google Meet or Zoom meeting, that's real fellowship. Christ is present with us through the Holy Spirit. If we join an online prayer meeting, sharing concerns and praying for one another, again, more real fellowship.
Even though we are perforce separated for a time, we are no less one in Christ, and our fellowship is no less real. In this we can truly rejoice, even as we long for and pray for the day when such separation is no longer necessary.
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