I have the privilege of networking with several local multi-church organizations. When we meet, there is an amazing array of Biblical interpretations and corresponding belief systems represented.
The respect shown amidst the differences is remarkable. Unity is achieved by acknowledging the value of one another, honoring them, and choosing to focus on our mutual mission rather than controvertible differences.
Seeing the strong leadership coupled with tender meekness is refreshing.
Churches have been talking about when they’ll begin meeting in their buildings again. No two churches are the same, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
There are differences in the number of members, the size of the sanctuary, and the age of the congregants. Church leaders know their demographics, and will best determine when it is safe for their flocks to gather again. Some members will think it’s too early, others too late, and a few, like Goldilocks on her third try, will find it just right!
We’ve also discussed the relative rarity of people wearing masks. For at-risk citizens, this is a concern. A retired pastor living here locally was invited to attend an outdoor prayer summit recently, and replied she’s trying to avoid gatherings where “my health is not respected”.
In other words, she’s not going to places where people may not wear masks and respect social distancing.
Her statement opened my eyes, and I realized my failure to put on a mask may offend others. Ouch!
I have a good friend near Aluchua County, Florida. He told me law enforcement has started writing fines if you’re not wearing a mask there.
What a novel approach to managing revenue. The decline in tickets from moving traffic violations can be offset with unmasked pedestrian ones.
Here in Wilmington, officers could simply stake out the shoppers at Walmart, Lowe’s or TSC (I was one of two with a mask in the line of a dozen patrons checking out there recently). It just doesn’t seem this wear-your-mask contagion has caught on in Clinton County, which puts us at greater risk for the COVID one once the quarantine is lifted.
This failure to comply begs the question: Why won’t people wear a face covering?
Occasionally I just forget to put mine on (sorry, I’m trying to do better). Some people still maintain that COVID-19 is a hoax, a sophisticated conspiracy that can be resisted by refusing to mask up.
Others are in denial about their susceptibility to infection or risk of being a carrier, and some folks just aren’t willing to comply with anything Big Brother suggests, even wearing a mask.
If you’re of the persuasion the Bible gives reliable instruction for living life well, please check out Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8. These passages explain the Apostle Paul’s counsel about eating meat sacrificed to idols, a hotly debated, disputable matter in the 1st century.
He declares it’s OK to eat the meat, no problem, but if eating brings offense to another or undermines a friendship in development, don’t do it. Instead, we should yield our right to that cuisine, and advance God’s influence in the process.
That’s servant leadership: putting others first. That’s how Jesus accomplished His mission.
This principle holds true for face masks, and other pandemic nuances like social distancing also.
I like shaking hands, giving pats on the back, and expressing affection with warm hugs, and it bothers me this isn’t socially kosher right now. My wife reminded me, “It’s not all about you Dave”.
She’s right. Activating the Golden Rule looks different now. These are strange times when doing unto others means avoiding contact and not getting too close.
In the spirit of this new normal, let’s not ask ourselves, “Why should I wear a mask”, but, “Why don’t I?”
There may be something in your heart God wants you to show you. He did me.
And now when we see each other at Kroger, with my breathing veiled behind an Ohio State mask, I may seem more withdrawn than usual.
Just know I have a big smile hidden behind the fabric, and I’m loving you, and respecting you, from that short distance away.
Dave Hinman is Pastoral Elder at Dove Church Wilmington. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.