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Pastoral Letter 25th April 2021

牧聲 二零二一年四月二十五日
25/4/2021
by
William Xu

Social Distancing, a little-known phrase before COVID 19, has suddenly become one of the most frequently used expressions. We are also able to recognise the latest developments of the pandemic by looking at the changes in the social distancing requirement.

Appropriate distancing and spacing do promote comfortable interaction between one another.  The current social distancing requirements are put in place for physical health reasons; nevertheless, what I would like to share today is not on physical distancing, but on spiritual distancing.

Humans are social creatures. We adjust our distances with others, such as family members, friends, colleagues, or fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, according to the different levels of relationships. During the time when many families were house-bound because of the restrictions, I’ve learnt that challenges arose as many previously unresolved issues started to re-emerge. The more intimate the relationship is, the more challenges it imposes.

On the other hand, estranged relationships also pose a threat. It’s easy to fall into the trap of self-centredness when one got used to distancing themselves from others; not willing to open up themselves anymore, or to listen to others, and this may form one of the biggest modern crises – relationship crisis.

In fulfilling the mission bestowed by Father God, Jesus spent most of the time approaching and mingling with the crowd; however in other times, he maintained his distance from the crowd by retreating to the wilderness (Luke 5:16). Jesus needed space for himself, or rather should I say, an intimate time between God and Himself, something that we should all imitate. Although we may never be able to achieve the same level of intimate relationship with God, this is something we should all pursue, because this is the very foundation of a healthy relationship with people around us. Have you been in a state of self-isolation in the past? Or been maintaining a certain kind of connection with others? And how about relationships with others on the spiritual level?

We maintain social distancing for the sake of our health; however a more important aspect we should contemplate is the spiritual distancing and boundary between one another, as this is going to influence our personal and interpersonal health. Nonetheless, maintaining a good balance between intimacy and distancing is never an easy task. In healthy relationships, we should not only protect ourselves, but also consider other’s feelings. Opening up oneself to others may be risky, but also a self-sacrificing act, and commitment to others – a very challenging lesson for all of us, which, yet, is conducive to our life growth. I hope that we may not only build up awareness on this very issue, but also pray for a wise heart in order to learn this life-long lesson.

因著新冠疫情,以往鮮被提及的「社交距離」這一詞語,今天成為我們常被提醒的字眼。我們甚至可以從社交距離限制的變化得知當下疫情的最新動態。

當我們與人交流時,我們須保持一個適當的距離,以便營造舒適的溝通環境,因為過近的距離會引起不適。當然,我們現在所保持的社交距離,更多是為了衛生健康的緣故。但我今天要談的不是身體之間的物質距離,而是我們心靈層面或屬靈上的距離。

人是群居活動的造物。我們在與家人,朋友,同事,同工這些種種不同的關係也相對應地保持著不同的距離。親密的關係意味著挑戰,尤其當人們被迫禁閉在家時,我們聽聞很多家庭面臨不少的挑戰,因為過去那些被隱藏而未及時處理的問題,都不斷地暴露了出來。

然而,疏離的關係也會帶來問題。尤其當我們習慣了長久保持距離之後,我們會越容易沉浸在自我當中,而不願意去向人敞開自己或聆聽他人。而這些問題所造成的「關係危機」也可能是我們當今世代最大的危機之一。

大多數的時候,耶穌都在接觸人群,在與人對話中完成父神託付的使命。但他也在某些時刻,獨自退到曠野,與人群保持著適當的距離(路5:16)。祂需要有一些自己的空間,準確地說,是祂與父神親密同在的空間。這也是我們需要效法的地方。我們與神都未必能夠敞開到完全親密無間的程度,但卻是我們要渴慕追求的,因為這也是我們能夠正確地與他人建立關係的基礎。在過去的時間裡面,你是否處於孤立的狀態,還是與他人保持著某種聯繫?與人在屬靈上的聯結又如何?

保持社交距離,是為了生命健康。那麼屬靈的距離和界限也許更加值得我們去思考和重視,因為這將影響我們自己以及我們與他人之間關係的「健康」程度。然而,在保持親密與距離二者中取得適當的平衡卻並非易事。在健康的關係中,我們不僅要保護自己,同時也要顧及他人的感受。向他人敞開,可能是一種冒險,但也是一種犧牲和委身。這樣的學習對我們是一個挑戰,但對我們生命的長進也更有益處。盼望我們不單建立這方面的意識,也求神給我們智慧的心,讓我們學習這個一生之久的功課。

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