Not long ago my family and I got away for a week. We went to visit family, then went to visit other family, then were visited by more family. When you throw in the fishing it turned out to be a pretty relaxing time away overall. We had lots of fun, were able to watch some beautiful storms build and display their immense power, and we had plenty of great conversation.
A day or so before we were heading back to Dickinson I heard that the Menards in Bismarck was beginning to require shoppers to wear masks due to the COVID-19 virus. Now… now is when you’ll begin judging me. My first reaction was one of thankfulness. I was thankful that I didn’t live in Bismarck, thankful I hadn’t been subjected to the mask requirements, and thankful I had been able to come and go in Dickinson in any major store without being hounded to put a mask on.
Within a day of me being so humbly thankful I heard the news that the Menards in Dickinson was to be included in the list of stores requiring masks. Then, not long after that the news that Walmart would soon be on that list as well rang in my ears. I’ll admit that thankfulness flew right out the window and began to be replaced with frustration, quiet outrage, and other selfish things. My immediate thoughts were that I would commit to let my home rot and fall apart before I’d go to Menards again. I’d spend the extra money and head to a grocery store that wasn’t tyrannical! I would make sure that ACE and other places throughout Dickinson would get an uptick in cash flow (because my unending monetary resources would surely be felt by a multi-billion dollar corporation).
In all the reflexive outrage within my heart, and to my shame, I never thought about this from a biblical point of view. I never thought, “What should I do as a disciple of Jesus?” My mind and heart went straight to “MERICA!” and never stopped to think about what I should do, how I should act, things I should think as a believer. In that moment I was an American before I was a Christian.
Now, this is a subject that I could rant about for quite a while so I’ll try to keep this brief. I truly believe one of the worst “pandemics” in the history of the Church is going on right now in that we tend to identify with a nation, subgroup, culture, or political party before we identify in Christ. Our tendency is to think constitution and then Bible.
Without getting into a deep theological discussion (though one-sided) here I’d simply like to say my mind has changed the more I look at the situation through gospel lenses.
I’ll just throw where I am out there. I don’t see the evidence that this is as scary as the world outside our Dakota bubble believes it is. I don’t see evidence that causes me to really live much differently than before I ever knew there was COVID-19. I don’t believe we need to close schools. I don’t believe all of the stats are trustworthy. And I don’t believe that masks make enough difference to change one number during an update from Governor Burgum (who I believe has done a good job in a lose-lose situation).
However… I do understand that I don’t know everything. I do understand that even if I’m right (big if) there are many who are frightened or concerned about this situation who are deserving of empathy. I do know that I haven’t had someone I love dearly pass away from this virus. I do know that no Menards or Walmart employees locally have any control over store policy like this. I do know that there are many people who agree with me and many who do not. I do know that the beauty of Jesus was that in light of the most weighty and terrible and hopeless news in existence he brought good news. He was a breath of fresh air. He certainly called out things that needed to be, but he did so while loving people.
I think of the server in a restaurant who is not serving perfectly and forgets my drink and gets something on my order wrong. My heart and conviction is to give a good tip regardless because I don’t know what might be going on in his/her life at the moment. I don’t know how other customers may be treating her/him badly. So I want to be good news in that place.
The employees in these places who are simply trying to keep their jobs and follow orders are met regularly with “MERICA”. They deal with enough, “I’m not wearing a mask.” They hear plenty of, “Make me!” And in a world filled with disruption, rage, fighting, badmouthing, hatred, childishness, immaturity, and sin… I want to be good news. I want to display the gospel of Jesus everywhere I go and in every interaction. I’m not always very good at that. But I have to try.
I’ll probably not go to the store now unless it’s absolutely necessary. But, when I go, I am determined to be a breath of fresh air to those who I encounter in those places. So let me end this dance on a soap box with a question for you.