Updated: May 3
Read through the lesson below (if you are in a group take turns reading). Then have a discussion, possible questions are included at the end. If you are alone, try to pair up with others in a small group though texting or even a phone call.
I will speak in this lesson about isolation. This lesson is in no way advocating that we do not separate ourselves or practice social distancing during this time of Covid-19 virus. Isolation as I am referring to it in this lesson is the normal practice one may have of shutting themselves off from the world and of the practice of the church to exclude some individuals.
Everything about Jesus’ ministry screams that it was an upside Kingdom and was counter cultural. The King washed the feet of his men. Some have even used this counter cultural and Holiness to call for isolation of the church. By this I mean that because we are Christians and are called to be Holy that we then cannot and should not associate with the rest of the world, so we are not corrupted. The problem with this is that then the church is not much more than a “country club” for believers. This in itself also goes completely against how Jesus lead His life and how He calls us to lead ours.
All of these scriptures reveal Jesus as a “friend of sinners.” Luke 15:2, Luke 7:34, Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32, Mark 2:15, Luke 5:32, Matthew 11:16-19; Luke 7:31-35, Luke 7:36-50, Luke 15:1-2, Luke 19:1-10.
In addition, how is it that we are to carry out the Great Commission if we are isolationist? Now, let’s stop here for a moment. This lesson is not advocating in any way that during the COVID-19 virus we should not isolate ourselves or practice social distancing to protect others. What I am saying is in our normal world we cannot be Christians solely for Christians. We have to be reaching the lost and those that are not in our normal social group.
In this way we are just like the Israelites while they were in exile in Babylon. Meaning that we are living in a world that is foreign to us, one whose culture is not ours and one who’s ways are against or at the very least not conducive to Christians.
This morning I was reading a devotional that followed this train of thought. It said that isolation was not the answer, but that insulation was. See we are called to be in this world but not really to be of this world.
“The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world.” John 15:19 (NLT)
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15 ESV
We are not OF this world any longer, but we still have to live in it. Therefore, we are by our very nature counter cultural to the world. Is it any wonder we do not like what is going on in the world? Maybe we should then look at the few who were successful in being counter- cultural but still in their world while living in Babylon for advice in how to do this.
In the book of Daniel, we read:
“Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. ‘Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.’ The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service.
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah. The chief of staff renamed them with these Babylonian names:
Daniel was called Belteshazzar.
Hananiah was called Shadrach.
Mishael was called Meshach.
Azariah was called Abednego.
God’s Blessing: Appointment at the King’s Palace
But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. But he responded, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.’
Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff to look after Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,’ Daniel said. ‘At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.’ The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days.” Daniel 1:3-14 (NLT)
Daniel and his friends did not separate themselves from the Babylonian world, they were part of it. They even use some of it like its education and other good things. However, they determined right away to not be defiled by it. So, they put up walls of insulation not isolation. They protected themselves as they needed to They did not eat the food and as we see later in Scripture, they refused to worship idols and they continued in their Israelite ways even though they were in Babylon.
The first thing you have to know about insulation is that for it to be effective you need it! If you get burned it's too late.
What ways can you insulate yourself from the world’s culture and ways, but still be in the world doing what God has called you to do?