333,000 Americans have died of Covid – but I know some Christians who are loudly disputing that number. Some are implying that the death toll numbers have been deliberately inflated. Some have been accusing medical professionals of complicity in skewing the statistics.
Over 19,000,000 Americans have contracted Covid, and many millions of Americans don’t have enough to eat because the pandemic is dragging on and on – but I see Christians refusing to obey mask mandates, singing Christmas carols in public just so they can flout the regulations (looking at you, Kirk Cameron), demanding to go to church.
These Christians insist that they should be free to mask or not mask, free to worship and travel as they please. Many of them insist that wearing a mask and keeping a distance of six feet amount to (no pun intended) overkill.
None of the Christians advancing these theories have any actual proof. They’ve heard theories broadcast on their favorite channels – and the theorists too lack actual proof. (And Covid cases continue to climb.)
Of course, you can find somebody to endorse literally any theory. That’s why we still have disciples of the flat-earth theory and the fake-moonwalk ideology. The difference is that flat-earthers and fake-moonwalk folks aren’t killing anybody with their beliefs.
Is it hyperbole to say that our collective choices are killing people? Think about it. We applauded the president because he didn’t “force” us to wear masks or avoid crowds. In fact, he actively encouraged large gatherings and even hosted them.
We went to those rallies, or supported the right of those who went by the thousands. When there were spikes in Covid cases afterwards (and even the death of a congressman), we had little to say.
We pretended we were standing up for the marginalized: “I mean honestly, some people can not breathe with a mask on. COPD is real, lung disease is real.” The real truth here is that we were using the marginalized for our agenda – to excuse our refusal to wear a mask.
We shamed the “sheeple” who believed the science and did what they were told: “What is the real issue? It’s not Covid. It’s all about power over the population. If we let them force a mask on us, then what is next?”
We applauded Trump’s recklessness: “The President thinks we’re smart enough to protect ourselves from getting sick. I appreciate the fact that he’s not pushing an agenda on me.”
We were silent as smear campaigns were launched (including by our president) against brilliant doctors like Anthony Fauci – because Fauci dared to disagree with the president and told us what to do.
Icing on the cake: we declared, “I believe that the Lord expects more from his church than for us to sit back on our hands and do nothing…I believe the church needs to rise up and speak out against the wrongs that are being pushed on us.”
What “wrongs” are being pushed on us? A requirement to wear a piece of cloth over our faces? Is that a wrong, or an inconvenience?
We say we are standing up for God’s church and religious freedom.
Freedom that makes us better
Paul talked about true religious freedom – the freedom we have in Christ – in Galatians 5.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”
How to do that? Should believers obey the law that demands circumcision (v.2)? No, we are free from that.
Should believers obey the law that demands waiving circumcision? No, we are free from that. (Also, some of us are female.)
So what should we do, Paul? Tell us what to do! We need specifics.
Paul patiently explains:
In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Serve one another humbly in love…walk by the Spirit…if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Not as prescriptive as we’d like, is it? No, we have to think for ourselves. We have to be discerning.
We need to keep asking ourselves, “how do I express my faith through love?”
Sometimes Jesus straight-up broke laws – for example, he healed on the Sabbath (Mark 3) and touched lepers (Matthew 8). He loved by helping, without regard for the calendar.
Other times, Jesus expanded laws – for example, “thou shalt not kill” became “don’t even harbor anger”; “thou shalt not commit adultery” became “keep your thoughts under control” (Matthew 5). Love requires inner work.
Paul did give us some direction in Galatians 5, a partial answer to the question, “how do I express my faith through love?”
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
So, instead of trafficking in rumors and gossip (“somebody is artificially inflating the Covid statistics,” or “masking is the government’s way of trying to control us”), let us put our energies into loving.
Love in a time of pandemic
Let us mourn the massive loss of life (even if the numbers may be inflated).
Let us comfort those who have lost loved ones (even if some deaths may have been wrongly attributed to the coronavirus).
Let us pray for the doctors and nurses who are on the front lines every day, and do something nice for them when we can.
Let us be the first to waive our personal preferences, freedoms, and comforts, and take whatever precautions we are asked to take (just in case the scientists are right).
And even if we’re skeptical about the efficacy of masks and distancing, we’ve been told they are in place for the good of the weak and vulnerable – isn’t it more loving to submit to authority (just in case they’re right)?
If the world was mocking us for our holiness and devotion to God, we could chalk it up to “persecution for the sake of the Gospel.” But that’s not what’s happening. The world is mocking Christians for our inability to see what’s right in front of us: we are killing each other.
By blessing the actions (or in many cases, inactions) of our president, we have become complicit in the deaths of many thousands of Americans. We are not expressing our faith through love – we’re expressing our pride through self-centeredness.
The longer we wait to bail out on Trump, the more contemptible we’ll be when it all falls apart. Why are you still waiting? You know it’s just a matter of time, and not much time at that. (Sign up for my newsletter here.)