Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, we have heard two words repeatedly: isolation and exposure. Isolation is the key to containing the spread of the virus. If you have the virus or even think you might have the virus, even if you do not have the symptoms, isolate yourself. Do not go near other people; especially to areas where there is no infection. Do not expose yourself to others.
Another observation is how rapidly the coronavirus has spread since its beginning. One obvious reason for its spread is due to the fact that infected people came in contact with people who were not infected.
The coronavirus is dangerous, and it can be fatal. To contain it and ultimately destroy it, we must isolate all infected persons and minimise their exposure. The strategy is to isolate and stop exposure thus preventing its spread. This must be done because we do not want the coronavirus to infect and kill people.
OM’s vision, to see vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached, requires us to ‘flip the script’ – from maximum isolation and minimum exposure to minimum isolation and maximum exposure.
All Jesus followers have heard the command of Jesus: “…to go and make disciples of all nations.” For this message to spread, it requires just the opposite approach of the strategy being used to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. A command to Jesus followers is – not to isolate yourselves but to go where people are not exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
While the coronavirus kills, the Gospel, according to John 3:16, gives life. In John 10:10 we read: “…I have come so that they may have life and may have it abundantly.” Amazingly enough, the Lord has decided to see the gospel (life) spread through His obedient followers who are willing to get out of ‘isolation’ and make themselves available to the people who have not yet been exposed to this message.
OM’s vision is precisely this – calling all Jesus followers to expose (scatter) themselves, wherever God has placed them, and calling some to move to areas where there is little to no exposure – in order to see vibrant communities of Jesus followers established.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” — Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV)
Once we have the light of the gospel, we do not put it under a basket, meaning we do not isolate ourselves, but rather we place it on a stand for maximum exposure. You will be surprised to know how many Jesus followers are under a basket, with other Jesus followers, and have a very comfortable—warm and bright —life. They need to be challenged and exhorted to a life of maximum exposure.
“And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” — Acts 8:1-4 (ESV)
The early Jesus followers, described in the New Testament, were not isolationists. They were an exposed (scatted, dispersed, exiled) community and they kept scattering. Wherever there was a danger of isolation, the Lord took steps to make sure His disciples scattered, in order to expose and enable the wide spreading of the gospel of life among others. In Acts 8:1 we read about the persecution in Jerusalem that scattered the disciples. We also read about the Jesus followers in dispersion in James 1:1. Peter also mentioned a scattered community 1 Peter 1:1 - 2.
We can learn from the rapid spread of Jesus’ message. It is simple – humanly speaking the only way to see a rapid growth of Jesus followers among the least reached is for Jesus followers to move in their midst, just as Jesus did: “…the word became flesh and dwelt among them.” Let us go where there are no Jesus followers. Let us isolate and avoid exposure to defeat the life-taking coronavirus but let us avoid isolation and maximize exposure in order to spread the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ.
How are you sharing Christ’s love with those around you during this time?
Palin* was born in the north of India and studied chemical engineering in the United States. Later he joined OM in the summer of 1979 for a short trip but ended up serving back in India for almost two decades before becoming a missions pastor of a church in the United States. Now he and his wife are back again in Asia helping OM workers wrestle with the cultural implications of the gospel.