Let’s just be honest…there are a lot of “Christians” that have very definitive views on covid statistics and mitigations, masks, Biden versus Trump, Republican versus Democratic platforms, racism, big government, education, abortion, national security, illegal immigration, and government infringment in God’s separate but equal istitutions of the family/home, the church and the workplace. Many have drawn lines in the sand saying things like “You can’t possibly be a Christian and _____________!” This is extremely lazy language. We do not have to demonize those with whom we disagree.
I have some very definitive positions or beliefs on issues that plague and divide our culture and I believe they are all well-grounded in personal convictions and conscience through Scripture. I also have some well-formed opinions that are subject to change based on the collection of more or contrasting information OR the leadership of the Holy Spirit in my life. However, I do not bind anyone else’s conscience to my convictions and conclusions.
Where the Bible speaks, I speak boldly. Where the Bible is silent, my demands and expectations fall silent, though I’m always willing to offer an opinion when asked. Sometimes my opinion might be that I don’t really have an opinion in the matter. But where the Bible allows for Christian liberty and personal conscience, I will make my Biblical case and state my convictions, but I will not mandate or bind you to my convictions and conclusions. I appreciate when others show me the same honor, dignity and respect.
I’d like to suggest that there is more than one way to show love, concern and belief in cultural realities. I don’t believe that loving and caring truth is expressed by only one set of actions or mandating that anything short of that set of actions is failure to love our neighbors. I also don’t believe that simply because a person doesn’t believe, accept or act on one portion of a narrative that they should get shoved into an entire “school of thought” simply because they share that one single belief or value. That’s judgmental and extremely narrowminded. May I give some very relevant examples?
I’m not a pro-masker, but I wear one when it’s required in public places that I cannot or choose not to avoid. I have the utmost respect for pro-maskers, their concerns and reasons. I show them courtesy and honor their space when I’m around them. I don’t call them names, I don’t assume that they believe 10 other narratives simply because they are a pro-masker with whom I don’t share their same concern.
I’m not an anti-masker, but I don’t wear a mask when I can avoid it – in pictures, in my car, my home and when I’m around family. I socially distance from everyone that has not given me permission or encouraged me to be closer. I have not formed an alliance with others who are non-maskers or anti-maskers. It’s just a non-issue for me.
I’m a non-masker, with respect for those who don’t share my view. I avoid close interaction with folks who are immuno-compromised or just concerned for themselves and their loved ones. If I have to get close, I wear a mask if I even sense that they would prefer that I do so. However, when approached, I do not deny anyone access to me. If someone initiates a hug, a handshake, steps into my 6-ft bubble, wants to whisper in my ear, I do not refuse and I would never back up to avoid their reach. I WILL NOT refuse another human being access to compassion. People want, need and crave human interaction and my calling will not allow me to deny them that…even at the risk of my personal or my family’s health or life. My wife, who is immuno-compromised by the 20-year degradation of her body and complications by MS, does the same…without regard for her rights to uncompromised health. I am asthmatic and have nasal and bronchial allergies to dust, pollen, dander and airborne chemicals. I suffer through bronchitis about twice a year. I take six medications (two of them nasal sprays) and one natural herbal supplement every day to keep these at bay. I’m at risk and make decisions accordingly. BUT, we don’t expect others to do as we do nor do we shame them for not doing so.
It was one thing when it was 2, 4 or even 6 weeks of a mask mandate. But to wear masks indefinitely for months, a year or even more – every time I’m around other humans – is not the way that I want to interact or expect others to interact with me. We need one another. We were created to be in community with one another. Our emotional psyche is created to have that. The church is commanded with nearly 100 one anothers, most of them indicating close, physical interaction. We don’t follow this mandate with our children, our parents, our siblings. The Bible says that my local church family are my brothers and sisters…joint heirs in the same family. It makes no distinction between genetic and adopted family. Why do we?
How many testimonies have we heard in our lifetimes about the power of a single smile…the touch on a shoulder, the warmth of a handshake or an embrace. I believe we are yet to see how unhealthy these CDC/WHO/NIAID recommendations and health departments mandes of indefinite social distancing, staying in our homes as much as possible and wearing masks even outside is going to have on an entire culture, both emotionally, physically and spiritually. It’s already reeking great havoc in the mental health world. BUT…contrary to my personal views, I respect those who choose to do so and keep their distance as a result of our different perspectives.
I lost four valuable months with a dear sister and church member of 20 years who has died of cancer during the pandemic…four months that she needed her pastor, four months that I needed to spend with my friend, four months that we’ll never get back…all because we were told that it was in her best interest that everyone stay away from her during this time. Her life was not mine to save. Her time was appointed by the Lord and I missed four months of it. But I respected protocols and mandates that were made on her behalf. I was invited in for the last two weeks of her life and both she, her family and myself were blessed because of it. She died of cancer…not covid.
I lost another dear friend and church member of 21 1/2 years, who was in failing health for the last 18 months, drastically over the last three months. I was invited into her home and into her life for multiple visits without masks over the last seven months of her life…and several others were invited to do the same, against the recommendations of the powers that be. She died of congestive heart failure and not of covid at the age of 93. Her time was also appointed by the Lord and I had no control over that. But I also have no regrets and only very special, treasured memories of our laugther, discussions, reminiscing and tear in my time with her.
I’m not unscathed by the tragedies of the virus. My very dear friend and roommate from college lost him mama with Covid-19 complications. My sister-in-law lost her father and my daughter and son-in-law just lost his grandmother to the same. My brother was hospitalized with it for weeks. I know of many more cases, both horrendous and minor. But like so many other things in life, my personal experiences with an issue rarely change the narrative and the truth of the issue.
I don’t disbelieve that the virus is real nor do I cancel the notion that its damage has been lethal for well over 200K people in the US alone. I DO believe that the statistics get inflated and/or abused and the narrative gets inflamed with emotion and fear. I have no idea whether that is intentional, political or just driven by emotional, fearful people. That’s not my place or need to determine nor do I have the facts or desire to judge that. I DO believe that this virus has been used to polarize and divide our community and worse, the community of Christ.
I do not necessarily believe the science of masks but I’m not a scientist and I don’t try to pretend to be one. I read the science of both sides and to the best of my ability, I use the reasoning and intellect that God gave me to do what’s best for myself and my loved ones. I do not in any way, shape or form belittle someone who did the same and came to a different conclusion.
I have little concern for my rights and freedoms but am willing to participate in protecting the rights granted to my brothers and sisters by God and our constitution for as long as we are able. Whether or not I wear a mask has nothing to do with my personal rights to do so. If I choose not to wear a mask, I don’t put anyone at risk who hasn’t also made the adult decision to take the same risk. When in doubt, I adjust and control the space in which I interact with those people. They have every right to distance themselves from me with no ill sentiment or hard feelings. Do you know why I do this? Because I love them…because I do not want to be the catalyst for their suffering or fear….NOT because I can in any way save their life. I do not have the power to save lives…that is the role of my Soverign God, who in His providence is in constant care for and absolute rule over all HIS creation, for HIS glory and the good of HIS people.
I cannot save lives, but I can love them as Jesus loved them…in ALL the ways that Jesus loved His creation through all the circumstances that He loved them.
So How Did Jesus Treat People? Check out my next blog here.