Our local cases of COVID seem to be going up when all of us want them to be going down. So, the CDC continues to encourage social distancing, mask wearing in public, and hand washing. We have gotten used to hearing this familiar refrain from those who want us to be safe. But it seems like it is easy for us to become complacent instead of compassionate. It is easy to exhibit outrage toward our circumstances instead of outreach towards others. Sometimes we think that we know better than everyone else, and we don’t want to submit to what others say.
God’s word addresses that in James 4. The writer doesn’t say anything about the pandemic that we are facing, but he does remind us that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. You see, we get worked up over how we feel about others telling us what to do, but we don’t give enough attention to submitting to what God tells us to do. But James 4:8 exhorts us: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people!”
We need to care about our physical health and about taking care of the people around us by washing our hands. Spiritually, God wants us to have clean hands too, but our hands have been stained by the guilt of our sin. He alone can purify us and give us clean hands. But he doesn’t want us to be distant. His word says, “Draw near.” Then, seek to live for him by following his plan for you.
It requires submission. If you say you agree with God but then act out of a heart that says “you can’t tell me what to do,” then you will agree with him one moment, and ignore his will the next. God says this is being “double-minded” and he wants to free you from it.
Will you draw near to God, let him give you clean hands and a pure heart, and then live in single-minded devotion to him? Physically, we might need to wear the mask and keep our distance for a little while longer. But spiritually, take off the mask of pretending and draw near to God!
Doug Davis is pastor of Arthur Southern Baptist Church.