One of the most unwelcome words coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic was “social distancing.” We all struggled with separation from the people we loved. But isolation itself is not a new problem. A 2018 survey reported that loneliness levels had reached an “all-time high” in the United States. Nearly half of the 20,000 adults interviewed said they sometimes or always felt alone.
Loneliness is due not only to the absence of people in our lives but also to a lack of authentic connection. You can be a mom with children clinging to you, a college student with two thousand followers on social media, a doctor who sees dozens of patients, or a bus driver who interacts with hundreds of people every shift and experience loneliness.
One remarkable thing about Jesus was His ability to make authentic connections with people that changed their lives for eternity. The Gospels record more than 40 conversations between Jesus and individuals: the Samaritan woman (John 4), the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18–29), Jairus (Mark 5:21–43), Nicodemus (John 3), Zacchaeus (Luke 19).
I love how Jesus met with Nicodemus in the middle of the night (John 3) and called the tax collector, Zacchaeus, out of the tree where he was perched (Luke 19:5). Jesus showed His love for people by spending quality time with them. He was never too busy to stop and hear their requests. In Mark 5, a crowd had gathered to hear Jesus when He was interrupted not once, but twice. A religious leader, Jairus, fell at His feet, begging Jesus to heal His daughter. At the same time, a woman touched Him asking for healing. Jesus allowed these interruptions to focus on individuals.
I am impressed that Jesus did not restrict His teaching time to the Temple. Instead, He went out to the places where ordinary people spent time. Jesus practiced the exact opposite of social distancing. He welcomed the curious, the seekers, the disturbed, and the desperate, getting up close and personal with all types of people. What can we learn from the great Teacher? To really notice the people around us: to see, to talk, to listen. Like Jesus, we are called “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).