A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were on the church patio area talking with one of the members. We were having a nice chat when, as often happens these days, the subject turned to Covid and the mask mandates and restrictions.
“I refuse to wear a mask anymore.” The man shook his head. “I don’t have to worry. I’m protected by God. I trust Him. And if something happens and I die, I know where I’m going.”
I don’t know how many times over the course of the past year and a half I’ve heard versions of this same statement. It makes me angry. Comments like this make me question what happened to the Christian church. Where is the compassion we are to have for those around us? While I realize not every Christian would espouse these beliefs, the thought is prevalent among today’s congregations.
Why am I angry? What is wrong with that statement? Isn’t it true that we don’t have to worry? That God takes care of us? That we have a home in Heaven that is pain free, disease free, etc.?
Yes. Yes, those are all true statements. But Christianity goes beyond that. Christianity means putting others before ourselves. Christianity means considering the needs of others, not just the inconvenience to us, or our pride in who we are in Christ.
Where’s the proof? How do we know what is the right thing to do?
Take a look at the story of Stephen in Acts 7:57-60 after Stephen preached the truth of Christ. He was taken out and stoned to death by the mob of religious leaders. Did he stand there and spout something about not being afraid to die? Did he tell them he knew where he was going and wasn’t worried? No, instead of thinking of himself and what he faced, he said, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” Stephen thought of others and their spiritual welfare, even at the very last moment of his life.
Jesus, when he faced death on the cross, didn’t brag about how He didn’t have to worry about death because He knew where He was going. He wasn’t full of pride. Instead, He made sure to reach as many people as possible with the truth that God loves them. He did His best to prepare the disciples for His death and their role in the church. He thought of others, not Himself. Even as He was dying on the cross, He made sure His mother was cared for and showed compassion for the theif on the cross.
As I listened to the gentleman at church, I took a deep breath and prayed before giving input. Then I told him I didn’t wear a mask out of fear for my life. I didn’t take the vaccine or social distance because of fear. Instead, I was concerned for those who are immunocompromised, for those who might need a little longer for the Holy Spirit to work in their lives, for those whose spiritual lives would be in danger if they got the virus and died.
Wearing a mask, social distancing, and getting the vaccine were never about me. And they shouldn’t be. As a church we need put aside our pride in the certainty we have in Christ and consider the needs of others. We need to become the church that reflects the love of Christ to those around us.