by Roy Henry
BATTLE CREEK, MI – This past week I found myself needing to go to a large hardware store to pick up some items for a project. I dutifully donned my mask, entered the store, and collected the items I needed. I got in line, and again trying to be a good neighbor, I kept my distance from the customer who stood in front of me, an older middle aged lady. Opposite of her in the other line was a younger middle aged man.
I’m not sure what triggered the conversation (I was thinking about my project), but the lady in front of me began complaining loudly about the numerous “Mexicans” she had witnessed in the store without masks and how the young employee at the main entrance wasn’t doing his job “to protect us.” I’m not sure who her audience was. As she continued on in her abrasive manner, the cashier in the other line asked the man something, to which he replied, “I’m just listening. I have my own opinion on masks, but I’m wearing it out of respect for others.” Apparently, this was not to the liking of the lady, who began to attack the man for his unspoken opinion. He tried to disengage, but she was not willing to stop. Both finished checking out about the same time and walked out to the parking lot, where the lady continued yelling at the man, cursing him and calling him everything except a child of God.
These kinds of interactions are becoming more commonplace in our increasingly on-edge society. The tensions of living in a global pandemic, with the concomitant challenges of economic stress, reduced human interactions, uncertainty, and a 24-hour news cycle that must be filled with something, have caused many to lose what little civility still existed. While we might expect this from the world (after all, we can’t be surprised when the lost act like they’re lost), it is disheartening when we see the same attitudes and actions occur in and between brothers and sisters in Christ. Times such as these require more grace on our part, not less. How might we better show that grace?
Guard our hearts.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (ESV). In computing, there is an old acronym: GIGO. Garbage in, garbage out. What is true of programming is true for our hearts and, consequently, our actions. If we fill our hearts with conspiracy theories, fear-fueled media reports, and half-cocked social media posts, then suspicion, fear, and ultimately despondence will be what overflows into our lives. Fill your heart with Scripture, and watch what sloshes out when you get “bumped” by circumstances.
Love our neighbors.
The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) reminds us that loving our neighbor will require doing some things that both make us uncomfortable at times and might even be costly. For the vast majority of us, wearing a mask might be slightly uncomfortable, and we might chafe at the restriction of our “right” not to wear one, but these are incredibly minor inconveniences in the face of a global pandemic. As believers, we are called to count others as greater than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Why jeopardize our witness in our community simply because we don’t want to be slightly uncomfortable for a few minutes?
Remember the grace you’ve been shown.
Have you ever held a wrong perspective? (That’s a rhetorical question.) Now, think about those who tried to correct you. Did you respond to those who yelled at, berated, and insulted you, or were you more willing to listen to the one who came to you with a different opinion – but in grace? As believers, each of us has been shown grace upon grace by our Heavenly Father. Will we extend that grace to others with whom we disagree, or will we adopt the world’s standard of “scorched earth” warfare against all who dare take a different perspective? Can you imagine how the Kingdom might advance if Christians, those who have received the fullness of God’s unmerited grace, actually showed it to others?
Showing grace in the best of circumstances can be difficult; extending it in the midst of a public crisis, with all of its cross-cutting pressures, is impossible apart from the Holy Spirit. Yet our Lord has not called us to an easy, comfortable, costless life; He has called us to take up our cross, die to ourselves daily, and follow Him and His example. Wearing a mask in public is a simple way to show grace to others, many of whom don’t know the grace of God through Jesus Christ. If wearing a mask might show someone that we love and care about them because Jesus does, isn’t it worth it?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Roy Henry serves as Senior Pastor to the flock at Faith Baptist Church in Battle Creek, Michigan. He is married to Aryn and they have three wonderful children: Isaac, Reagan, and Elijah. He also serves as the First Vice-President for the BSCM and as the trustee from Michigan for NAMB. In his spare time, he works to convince the people of Michigan of the wonders of Southern BBQ (vinegar-based sauce, of course), unsweetened cornbread, and sweet tea.