I try really hard to dismiss judgmental thoughts toward others. But the truth is: I’m not very good at it.
One person is masked and gloved and extra-vigilant for anyone stepping within a 10′ radius. And I think: “What’s up with this guy and his fearful response to this COVID-19 stuff?” At the same time, another person is proudly bare-faced, hosting a party to intentionally defy the CDC recommendations, dapping up his friends. And I think: “What’s up with this guy and his reckless response to this COVID-19 stuff?”
I want to believe that I’m perfectly balanced. It’s everyone else who’s either a wimp or a blow-hard, a worry-wart or an inconsiderate jerk. But that’s really not a very realistic perspective, is it?
If we’re going to get through this, we must figure out ways to talk about our different preferences for reintegration. We must learn how to negotiate and compromise — both for practical reasons and for compassionate reasons. Or, in some cases, we may even have to go beyond negotiation.
As a Christian, I take my lead from Jesus. Philippians 2 has been especially heavy on my heart this week. It says, “Let there be no self-centered thinking. Let there be no vain pride. But let there be humility towards one another. Lead in such a way that values each other’s interests above your own. Don’t just keep an eye on your own self-interests, but also keep an eye out for others.” The passage goes on to say how Jesus gave up his divine privileges, his comfortable position. It says he “didn’t hold onto that with clenched fists. Instead, he emptied himself… he humbled himself and submitted to human experience to the point of death — even death on a cross!”
So, why do so many Christians seem to be the ones so loudly complaining about wearing a mask out in public?!? How can my fellow believers be the clearest voices railing against the government’s restrictions designed to protect the most vulnerable people around us?!? Jesus didn’t hold onto his divine status with clenched fists! He emptied himself! He chose to become nothing in order to serve and save others.
How can we not accommodate those around us who have different convictions and comfort levels?!?
Romans 14 says we are to “Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.” That means, we will find ourselves at different points on the spectrum from others. It might even get to the point that the other party seems totally crazy and weak-minded. Yet according to the Bible, we still must accommodate! There’s no allowance for one believer looking down on another believer (or non-believer, for that matter!), just because they’re at a different point on the spectrum. Instead of shouting our views and posting articles corroborating our points of view, we should be listening and giving up our freedoms to accommodate others. “Who are you to condemn someone else’s servant? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.”
It is important to develop one’s own convictions and comfort levels, when it comes to one’s application of the various precautionary measures that are at our disposal with re-opening society in the time of COVID-19. But I suggest that it is even more important to listen and establish the convictions and comfort levels of others. And then accommodate those differences, with a focus on the least common denominators.
I’ve got some thoughts for how we might be able to start doing this, but I’m still curious to hear from others. Do you have any ways that you’re practicing selflessness and concern for others right now? How can we get more of that bubbling up in social discourse right now?
NOTE: The title for this post was inspired by an episode of a podcast called 99% Invisible. I’d highly recommend listening to it to get another perspective on wearing masks during COVID-19.