“‘To mask or not to mask?’ that is the question,” or at least one of the many questions facing us all today.
A couple of days ago, a woman parked on our street and walked into a house she was apparently visiting because I’ve never seen her or her car before, or since, for that matter. I was driving by when I saw her walking away from her car. We smiled and waved, and I noticed she has a message printed on her back window so I slowed down to read it. It read: “You have a right to self-quarantine; I have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
I had to think about that for a while as I drove away. I wished I had read that in time to flag her down and ask her a question. I didn’t, and in fact, I don’t think fast enough to respond that quickly, but if I could have, I would have wanted to ask her something like this. “Excuse me, but if you are open to a friendly chat, I would like to ask you one question in relation to the statements on your window.” And assuming she was, I would have wanted to ask her, “Actually, I have two questions. First, don’t we both have both of these rights? And second, what do we do if these rights are ever in conflict?” It would have been interesting to know what she would have said.
Paul would say that if we have rights in conflict, the other guy’s comes first. Tell me how often you see that in action today?
I’m telling this story because it brings up something we talked about here earlier, and I think it is important enough to make the point again, and maybe even make it more clearly and emphatically. There are lots of opinions going around about when to open back up businesses, schools, sporting events and church gatherings, and the fact that governments, both local and federal, are mandating these things has turned them into political, civil rights issues. The government is involved because we are a society and we all must live together; we are not autonomous. If people could just choose what they wanted without affecting others, it wouldn’t be so hard, but our choices affect each other in ways that can end up being life-threatening for some, and therein lies the conflict. That’s why we have a government — to help seek what’s best for everybody and support the common good.
This is where I think you and I can set an example as Christians and followers of Christ. We have a reason to go beyond the greatest good for the greatest number of people. We are following Christ, and Christ asks us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Paul goes even farther when he tells us to “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4) Or in Galatians, he says, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)
I believe that if you and I with boots on the ground lived like this in the world — serving and putting others first — more people might be asking, “If this is what it means to be a Christian, I want to hear more.” We would be expressing grace turned outward. When will Christians start speaking out for other peoples’ rights instead of just their own?
Our vision is to introduce the gospel of welcome — grace turned outward — to everyone, everywhere. We can’t do that when we are putting our own rights before everyone else’s.
So, shall I or shall I not wear a mask? I’ll let you answer that.