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Social Distancing Isn't Anything New

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


Social distancing has been in the news recently. People are using the expression because of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Social distancing is most effective when an infection can be transmitted from droplets spread by coughing; direct physical contact, or indirect physical contact by touching a contaminated surface such as a doorknob, a faucet, or an elevator button,

Social Distancing: Not New

Social distancing exists in the Bible. According to Leviticus 13:46, "And the leper in whom the plague is shall dwell alone; outside the camp shall his habitation be." That is indeed a clear case of social distancing.

Also, when Miriam was punished with leprosy while wandering in the wilderness with the Israelites, she had to be put outside the camp until she was healed. According to Numbers 12:15, "So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days."

Jesus Exhibited a Habit of Social Distancing

Even though we are communal people, there are times that we, like Jesus, should steal away to a solitary place to be away from the madding crowd. While being away from others, we avoid distractions and can be with God who needs no social distancing.

Many scriptures throughout the Gospels indicate that even though Jesus was a social person, He left the crowds many times to be alone. He knew how important solitude and silence were to Him and His ministry.

Jesus withdrew from people, His daily activities, and ministry to be alone with His Father and prayed. After being away alone, He was able to be better prepared to teach, preach and heal.

“When Jesus heard [that John the Baptist had been beheaded], he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place” (Matthew 14:13).

"After [Jesus] had dismissed [the crowds], he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was [still] there alone” (Matthew 14:23).

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed (Mark 1:35).

“Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to [his disciples], ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place” (Mark 6:31-32).

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:16).

“Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him” (Luke 6:12-13).

“Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone” (Mark 9:2).

Henry David Thoreau: Example of Social Distancing

Henry David Thoreau was an American essayist, poet, philosopher, and a leading transcendentalist during his time. He lived from 1817 to 1862 and died at age 44 of tuberculosis. He lived in the woods for two years, two months, and two days by Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts.

It was there that he wrote his best-known book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings. He settled in a forest on the shore of Walden Pond and built himself a tiny cabin because he wished to live deliberately.

Thoreau practiced social distancing even before it became a popular expression during the coronavirus pandemic. In order not to be distracted with his writing, he moved to the woods of Walden Pond to be able to think creatively. He desired to be in communion with nature instead of with people. He wanted to learn all that life had to teach him. He was convinced that living in the woods would lead to a more purposeful life. He explained his decision by saying, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

Thoreau enjoyed his simplistic life so much that he advised the simple lifestyle to others, and His time in Walden Woods became a model for deliberate and ethical living. He claimed, "Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail."

Thoreau was convinced that a simple life is the key to a fulfilled life. In solitude, simplicity, and living close to nature, Thoreau had found what he believed to be a better life.


Advantages of Social Distancing

Social distancing is necessary to stop the spread of infectious diseases from person to person. Usually, it is a temporary measure and the goal is often obtained.

People can stop being bored by being creative. They can do things at home they have been putting off. They can always read more and spend more time with family members.

Social distancing is most effective when people stay away from large crowds. However, it doesn't mean you have to avoid being with a friend or two sometimes as long as you stay three to six feet apart.


Disadvantages of Social Distancing

There are some disadvantages of social distancing. People can experience loneliness and boredom if they cannot interact with others. Social distancing can be painful for some. People who have been in jail often know about being isolated. To make matters worse, they might experience even greater pain when they misbehave and end up alone in solitary confinement.

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