Wednesday Word: What About Me?
On the news the other day I saw a brief story about a church holding services at full capacity, defying the state's guidelines on the number of persons allowed to gather in one place. Unfortunately I can't remember what state, city, or church this was, but that really isn't important here. What's important are the two different reactions that were presented.
The video showed two groups of people: one group wearing masks and holding signs saying, “Love your neighbor,” and the other group going into the church without masks and proclaiming that their civil liberty to gather and worship as they saw fit was being violated by that state's mask and gathering orders.
A female parishioner being interviewed said, “I get the whole mask thing and not wanting to gather and that's fine for you. But what about me? My civil liberty to worship is being violated and that's not right.”
And that pretty much sums up where our society as a whole has devolved to: What about me?
Wearing a mask to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus has somehow morphed into a flashpoint for people claiming their individual rights are being violated and claims of masks hampering their ability to breathe. Which, when compared to people who truly couldn't breathe like Eric Garner, Javier Ambler, Manuel Ellis, Elijah McClain, and George Floyd, is sad, ironic, and completely oblivious.
For those claiming their civil liberties are being violated by not being able to worship as they see fit, it's not all about you. A huge disconnect has developed between what I want and what is good for the body. Paul wrote about the necessity of a healthy body. Jesus' whole life was focused on others and, at one point, said, “Not what I want, but what you want.” Scripture is full of examples and admonitions to care for others. Loving your neighbor sometimes includes doing that which is personally uncomfortable. Being in a worshiping community means we do what we can to ensure the health of that community – whether that's wearing a mask, following gathering guidelines, or both.
Worship is part of what we do as a church, and there is no doubt that worship edifies and sustains us spiritually and emotionally. Worship is also the primary and most visible way we honor God, but it is not the only way. We can also honor God by caring for those who are hungry, homeless, abused, and otherwise in need. We can honor God by respecting the dignity of every human being; and in this time, respecting them enough to wear a mask so as not to inadvertently spread the coronavirus. We can honor God by seeking justice, exhibiting kindness, and living humbly. We can honor God by focusing less on our own desires and more on the needs of God's creation in its entirety.
As a whole, we would do well to spend less time focusing on what individual rights we seem to be losing and more time losing ourselves in the will of God. So as we move forward through the pandemic and quarantines, how might we find new ways to honor God and shift our focus to others?