The other day I went to Whole Foods and didn’t wear a mask for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began. I first confirmed with the security person at the front of the store that masks were no longer required, then slowly entered. I quickly scanned the other customers and saw some wearing masks and some not wearing them. The thought hit me: Am I making people nervous? Maybe I should just put my mask back on.
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience, not sure exactly how to get to this new “normal” now that the mask mandates are relaxing in most places. There seems to be a tension between those who feel the mandates lasted too long and those who are concerned that perhaps they didn’t last long enough.
While I can’t give specific advice for every situation, I’ve reflected on a few guiding principles that may serve us well moving forward.
- Trust God
First and foremost, we must remind ourselves daily from God’s Word that our trust is in Him for our health, safety, and life itself. I sometimes picture my trust in God as a leaky bucket. Sometimes the bucket is full and my trust in God is solid. But through life’s various circumstances, I sometimes feel like my faith bucket needs to be filled back up. I notice anxieties and fears creep into my heart and even grow a little out of control.
In these times, we need to commune with God through His Word and with prayer. We pray with the psalmist, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us” (Ps. 62:8) or with Nahum, “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him” (Nah. 1:7). The more I meditate and pray over these and other portions of God’s Word, the more I sense my trust bucket filling back up. The Holy Spirit is strengthening my faith and hope through the Scriptures.
But how does this help you decide if you should wear a mask at Whole Foods? It may not give you a specific answer, but walking in trust of the all-powerful God who holds your life in His hands will allow you to make the decision for the right reasons and with the right motivations. You are free to decide for yourself based on your convictions and for the love of your neighbor, without being led by fear, anxiety or external coercion. Just remember to keep your trust in God foundational in these decisions.
- Show empathy and gentleness
These times call for empathy and gentleness as we live with one another in an understanding way. Many people have strong opinions about how getting back to normal should be handled, and they are quick to look down upon or speak out against those who disagree. I’ve seen too many disagreements and character assassinations on social media over whether we should wear masks, get vaccinated or even leave our homes. Everyone speaks with the authority of an expert, quick to vilify those who haven’t been as “enlightened” as they have.
How might we respond if we took the time to understand the situation from another perspective?
Christ is our wonderful example of responding to others with gentleness. He did this by looking for areas of connection in the midst of disagreements. I think of Jesus’ interactions with the woman at the well, the rich young ruler, the centurion whose servant lay dying, or the woman caught in adultery — and see His gentleness on display. Each of these individuals had big points of conflict with Jesus in thought, word and deed, and yet Christ gently ministered to each of them. Let’s strive to be like Christ with those who disagree with us on how we get back to normal.
- Let your words be few
Related to our gentleness, we should be wise and careful with our speech in these times. Covid-19 has taught us all how often we don’t see clearly what’s coming on the horizon. Everyone was wrong about something at some point during this pandemic. As the Proverbs teach, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding” (Prov. 17:28). What a principle in our day of social media!
This doesn’t mean that we should all just sit around with tape over our mouths, but it reminds us to take up the posture of a listener. To listen and consider the facts, and only then speak up when speaking is loving to our neighbors.
Also, we do well to remember that God prohibits speaking falsely. The Ten Commandments warn against “giving false testimony against our neighbor.” And so, we must consider our speech and be careful not to hear false testimony and repeat it. When we do, we quickly repent of speaking falsely.
- Ask for wisdom
There certainly are a lot of decisions to make about how we get to our new normal. These times require wisdom, and I’m reminded of the advice of James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Pray for this wisdom in your decisions on how to reconnect with people. And pray for your leaders at church, at work and at home that they would walk in the wisdom of Christ as they make decisions that impact others.
As we head back to church, small groups, stores and restaurants, my advice is for us to trust the Lord and look for opportunities to love one another, especially when we disagree. Let’s abound in prayer, asking for the Lord’s mercy and the wisdom to make decisions that honor Him and show His love to others.