"In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets."
Our Lord told us that in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. This verse, Matthew 7:12, is commonly known as the Golden Rule. You all know it. You know Jesus said it. The Sermon on the Mount is all about how Christians should act. It is about our personal relationships... about giving to the poor... about prayer... about not putting too much importance on money... about not worrying... and about treating others with consideration for them. The Sermon on the Mount is about not doing the bare minimum, but going above in our care and concern for others.
Our Lord tells us in "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND." (Matthew 22:37, capitalized in my NASB Bible because it is quoting the Old Testament Scripture.) He tells us this is the greatest commandment. He goes on to tell us the second greatest commandment is, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." (Matthew 22:39, again capitalized because it is quoting the Old Testament Scripture.) Look, if you do these two things - love the Lord and love your neighbor; there isn't a need to be concerned about keeping a long list of do's and don'ts. The ten commandments are covered by these two commandments. Everything said to us in the Old Testament is covered by these two commandments. And that is what is meant by "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." So it is easy peasy. Love the Lord and love others.
Or is it? Our hearts aren't always full of love. And there is the struggle. There is the sin.
Christians know we are to obey our Lord and Savior. We thankfully and gratefully accept Jesus as our Savior. But the Lord part we resist it at every turn.
When I think of something as simple as wearing a mask and social distancing in the middle of a global pandemic the commands of our Lord come to my mind.
I live in a golf course community. Recently on our neighborhood page someone posted pictures of the get together for the women's golf group. It was inside our golf clubhouse and there were 22 women and 1 man sitting around tables - NONE of them with a mask on. Not one. I scrolled the comments and only one woman commented, "No mask?" I liked her comment, but did not comment.
And then a friend posted several pictures of her Easter celebration at her house with several families. Her caption was about her house was full of people... vaccinated, the non-vaccinated... Not one person had a mask on. I began to tear up. My husband and I spent our Easter watching church remotely. Home alone. I know it is our choice, but that doesn't make it any easier.
We all know there is a global pandemic going on. We all know many are suffering and dying. As of this morning 562,608 Americans have died from COVID. We know by now that as many as 10% of people who get COVID are considered long-haulers. They are people who have not fully recovered weeks or even months after first experiencing symptoms. By now each of us knows someone who died from COVID. Or we know someone who is still gravely ill. I know a 28 year old who still over a year later has not regained his sense of taste and smell. I know a woman in her early 40's who is still experiencing exhaustion ten weeks after having COVID. I know a couple my age who 10 months after getting COVID both are still struggling with breathing and the woman needs a cane most of the time.
I know of a family who all got together at Thanksgiving. Several of the family members got COVID from that day. The son in his late 50's got a blood clot and died. The father ended up in the hospital, suffered for weeks, and died. They lost two members of their family from getting together for a holiday. Was it worth it to them? Would they like a do-over?
I know people who have suffered greatly because of this pandemic. You do too.
There is a big percentage of the population who are taking precautions not to get this virus because they don't know how they will fair if they get it. I am one of them. I have friends who have had cancer. A friend going through breast cancer right now. I have a friend who a few years ago had a blood clot in her lung and almost died. A friend with rheumatoid arthritis. I know three people who have had transplants. I have friends who are the care takers for their loved ones. I know a man in his mid 20's who has had three heart operations. When his friends try to pressure him to come over, he says no. He tells them it is like buying a packet of Skittles and knowing that 1 out of the 100 Skittles might kill you. Would you eat any of them?
It isn't being fearful. It is weighing your risks. A life event like cancer, or an autoimmune disease, a heart attack, or any other major health issue will change your outlook on how you live your life. You make changes in your lifestyle just to have more time with those you love. You put things in perspective and value what is really important to you. I want to live. And I want to not only live, but I want to be healthy enough to still be able to visit family, to hike and travel.
You might tell me statistically I'll be just fine if I get COVID. You had it and you did fine. Well we all know people who haven't done fine with it. There seems to be no way to predict the outcome.
I have stayed home since March 17, 2020. Yes, I've gone to the grocery store and the pharmacy. I went camping one night. Yes, it is my choice to stay home and be safe. But it has taken an emotional toll.
It helps to know I am not alone. Many others are staying home and taking every precaution to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. We are checking on each other, cheering when we are vaccinated, and encouraging each other however we can.
I can't wait to be fully vaccinated and venture out more into the world! I have very much missed getting together with people. I can tell you though once I am vaccinated I will continue to wear a mask and to be careful because the virus hasn't gone anywhere, the vaccines aren't 100% effective, they don't know if you can still transmit it, and they aren't too sure about these new variants.
We all know what needs to be done to keep as many people healthy as possible. We are counting on you to do what is necessary for the best interest of everyone.
The people being careful about this pandemic are your neighbors. They are the ones who have sat beside you in the pew. Who have been in Bible study with you. Or even people who want to know this Jesus you claim to be your King and Lord.
If I asked you to remove your shoes because I just got new carpet, you would most likely comply without any argument and with a willing heart. If I asked you to don a mask when we share public space, would you have the same attitude and heart?
When we venture out and see people being cavalier with the safety recommendations or we see their photographs on social media of groups without masks on and not social distancing, we become anxious. Then our feelings turn to being hurt. The message they send to us is they don't care about us. Whether they mean to portray that to us or not, it is the message we are receiving.
Even if you think we are wrong and we are being fearful; be considerate of how you are making us feel. It isn't a big ask of you. We are counting on you to follow the safety precautions. Do it for us. Show us you care. Even if you don't know the people around you in a store or out somewhere, remember each person has a story to tell. Each of them matters to someone. And they each matter to God.
We represent our Lord to others.
"By this all men will know that your are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
The Lord has commanded us to treat people the way you want them to treat you. You want others to treat you kindly. Be kind to them.
You have a choice. The Christian thing to do is to be considerate and compassionate.