Sunday, August 22, 2021

To My Fellow Christians During Covid: Some of You Have Me All Confused


"In humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself." - Philippians 2:3

If you look at the list of states with the lowest levels of vaccination or where school systems and local governments are opposing any mask mandates, you are going to find an almost complete overlap with areas that claim the highest percentage of residents who regularly attend church and check "Christian" on forms asking for one's religious affiliation. Conversely, areas like New England and New York have a large majority of their populations vaccinated and still employ other mitigation practices and also are considered to be much more "unchurched" than other areas of the country. 

Why does it appear that Christians are the most reluctant to take steps to extend love to one another and protect "the least of these" during a pandemic? It's a question that has bothered me for over a year now. 

Many Christians will tell you that their faith tells them not to live in fear - that hiding behind masks or staying away from at-risk family members and friends is not trusting God to protect them. They will say that God determines when we all live and die and if they go, they go. They state that their personal freedoms come from God and will not be curtailed by any public official. 

But, if I may speak in love and conviction to my brothers and sisters, I find all of these statements to be  selfish in our current environment. Because our decisions not to wear a mask or get vaccinated do not affect us alone. They affect every other person with whom we come into contact - the elderly, the cancer patient, the kidney recipient, the young child. We are not just making decisions about how to approach our own health or even our own earthly mortality, but forcing these decisions upon others who are at the mercy of whether we choose to protect them or not. 

There are two instructions that trump all others in the New Testament - 1. Love God. 2. Love your neighbor as yourself. Christ tells us in Mark that there are no other commandments greater than these. If you are a Christian, nothing comes ahead of loving God and loving others. Nothing.

Not your refusal to wear a mask. Not your insistence that your kid who sat next to a student who tested positive for Covid can stay in school because he feels fine. Not your self-righteous tirade against doctors at a school board meeting. Not your hesitancy to get a vaccine. Not the desire to pack hundreds into an auditorium to worship while telling those who worry about getting sick they just can stay home. None of these acts is offering witness to Jesus and to His call to love one another. In fact, they are the opposite. 

With this Delta variant spreading like wildfire across much of our country, beautiful Christian witness can and should take the form of wearing a mask to protect the six-year-old who is too young to be vaccinated and who may carry the virus home to a diabetic parent or elderly grandparent. It can and should take the form of getting a vaccine that was created through decades of research done by men and women who were given brilliant minds by God to develop this life-saving tool. The more people who are vaccinated in a community, the lower the viral load and therefore the threat of severe illness or death for everyone who lives there. That's some awesome and exponential loving of neighbors right there. 

It can and should tell people, "You matter to me. Your life matters to me. I love you and I want you to feel safe and protected because that is how Jesus makes me feel and if I am the hands and feet of Jesus here on earth, I offer the same to you."

"For you, brothers, were called to freedom. Only do not not turn your freedom into an opportunity to gratify your own flesh, but through love make it your habit to serve one another." - Galatians 5:13