One of the great ironies of COVID was the phrase “social distancing,” which became synonymous with the epidemic. The idea was that we could avoid the epidemic, in part, by keeping our distance from one another and wearing masks. Many social groups have followed a similar practice throughout history — not to avoid epidemics — but to keep their distance from other groups they found distasteful, unclean, or bothersome. Peter cites that practice among Jews in Acts 10:28. Holy Scripture, though, makes clear that the early church was inclusive, not exclusive. Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman — a woman marginalized in her own village and, on top of that, from a group marginalized by Jews. Philip baptizes an Ethiopian eunuch, who would have been barred from Judaism because of his castration. And the apostle Peter baptizes Cornelius, a Roman centurion who was part of the hated force occupying ancient Palestine. Pray that we might learn from this important lesson from the early church!
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