Up Close and Personal (29-08-20)
Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. (John 7:37-39)
Jesus said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:14-16)
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8)
Social distancing has now become the norm for most social interactions, and while the British may not be seen as a very tactile race, compared to some of our European neighbours, I think many of us have been feeling quite deprived of physical contact over the last few months, whether it’s the now-taboo handshake or the more personal hugs from family and friends.
Such changes may help to keep Covid 19 at bay, but it is at the expense of meaningful interactions and the many health benefits that are associated with a hug. Benefits such as reducing stress levels, blood pressure and heart rate.
Fortunately, such restrictions don’t apply to God. The New Testament is full of times when Jesus says ‘Come to me’: ‘Come to me and follow’, ‘Come to me and drink, ‘Come to me if you are weary’, and ‘Let the children come to me’.
We are always welcome to get ‘up close and personal’ with Jesus, and God’s arms are always there to enfold us. We can come to him without fear of harm or rejection and we can receive the many benefits of spending time in his presence, which are not just spiritual, but also physical. Studies have shown that prayer, like hugging, can reduce stress levels, blood pressure and heart rate.
James tells us that, as we come near to God, so God comes near to us. God won’t invade our space unless we make the first move, but once we move towards him, so he moves towards us.
And maybe James has been reading the government’s Covid guidelines! He follows his words ‘Come near to God and he will come near to you’ by saying ‘wash your hands, you sinners’. We need to be spiritually clean when we come into God’s presence; not ‘sanitised on the outside’ but washed clean on the inside, by the blood of Jesus, shed for us all.
Thank you, Jesus, that you have made it possible for me to come into the presence of God without fear, washed clean and welcome.