What are you willing to sacrifice for the good of another person?
Brought in by a family member, years ago, a young woman sat in my emergency department, restless and agitated in the waiting room. With thoughts and strong intent of suicide she had come, although unwillingly. Suddenly she stood up, burst out of the hospital, running. Her sister and I ran after her, the police already on their way. She was headed to the highway, where a semi-truck was approaching.
I knew what her intent was.
Pumping my arms as fast as I could, I called out to her, fear gripping my soul. By the grace of God, the police arrived, she was safe.
Returning back to the hospital, a senior nurse gave me a high reprimand. What was I thinking? How could I put my own life in danger like that? I had children to think about for heaven's sake!
She was right. Truth be told, I wasn't thinking about anything else, except doing everything I could to keep that girl safe.
Perhaps it's my ER nurse mentality, or my personality, but caring for, and serving others is a huge part of my life, and the reason for that is deeply rooted in my faith in Christ. It's not a limited calling, only for the nurses, pastors, or parents. We are all called to love and care for those around us.
So how can we do that in a pandemic world?
The last year has been... unforgettable. It's a time in history we will not soon forget, but one we can learn through and grow in, as God invites us to a deeper trust in him. There are new ways of living to help get us through this pandemic, and one way that's proven helpful is wearing a mask.
So, to contribute to the ever-present discussion of wearing masks in a pandemic world, I write today.
One of the first things to understand is that the purpose of a mask covering your nose and mouth, is, primarily, to protect other people from yourself; your droplets, from sneezing, coughing and spewing, that you spread out into the world. You carry them, and you spread them, it’s infectious disease 101.
As contentious as the issue has become, I offer one perspective for those who love and follow Jesus, in light of the gospel we cling to.
Love writhes against our sinful nature
As God gave life and breath to his creation, he saw that it wasn’t good for man to be alone, and gave him a partner to share life with. In the garden of Eden, we see that God intended people to live in relationship, vertically with him, and horizontally with others.
These days we find ourselves struggling to maintain relationships, perhaps the ones we’re bound to at home, or with those we can’t see because of restrictions. Walking through the grocery store, people’s faces are half covered, you can’t see their smiles, if you’re lucky, perhaps a twinkle from a pair of kind eyes.
Even if you hold to views of conspiracy theory, or government oppression, when you are asked to put a mask over your face to protect the people around you, why is the response one of offense? Why is the stranger beside you not worth your time, effort and love?
If we are honest, it’s because we put ourselves first.
“I don’t want to wear a mask”
“The mask is uncomfortable” (yes, that’s right, they are)
“You can’t tell me what to do”
We were created by God with intention, meaning and purpose. Our fall into sin broke our relationship with God, and henceforth a sinful nature encompasses our being. We carry a nature not oriented toward the things of God, but on the things of man; “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Isaiah 64:6 says, “we have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” We are ever prone to living only for ourselves, the most natural tendency is toward self-preservation. But what does the gospel teach us? Perfect love redeems us All glory to God, he did not leave us in our sinful state, to face death and eternity away from his presence. No, in the perfect plans of God, he set in motion a rescue that would make a way for us to be reconciled with him, “for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17). So, “in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph 1:7) because, “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet 2:24). Therefore, in Jesus life, death and resurrection, we are redeemed and forgiven of our old patterns of thinking and acting, in order that we would no longer live for ourselves but for God. What an amazing gift, that we can stand before God without condemnation because of the work of Christ! In light of God’s gracious rescue, how then do we live? A model of love to live by This new life given to us in Christ is centered around his sacrifice for us; the selfless outpouring of love, for the glory of God and the good of others. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Pet 2:21) and, “be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:1-2). As we love and follow Christ, we are called to live as he lived, to love as he loved. This is no small task. To love sacrificially as our savior means putting others first, to “do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also the interests of others” (Phil 2:4). When I’m at home with my family, I have a huge tendency to put my tasks first, to get done what I want to do, and I can miss the opportunities to love, care and teach them in the midst of it. It’s like weeding the garden, eyes fixed on all the weeds to pull, but forgetting to sit in the wonder and beauty of the healthy plants around them. What we are waiting for We are waiting now, for the return of Christ. So, we live to spread this wonderful gospel, living as a light in a dark world, because, “by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”(John 13:35). Making Jesus known to the world around us is through love. Not just simply caring from a distance, but with a practical, present love, empowered by the spirit, that willingly gives, offers, and sacrifices, with others in mind. Donning a mask when you enter a public place, is one way that you demonstrate love for the person near you. That person may be a stranger. You may not even agree with what you are doing. But the offering of our selflessness for the good of someone else speaks volumes. It speaks in spiritual language, with the love of the powerful name of Christ.
Friends, the gospel we have received in Christ Jesus is not a me-first gospel, it never has been, and never will be. To live the truth of the gospel in our day-to-day means living for the glory of God, and for the good of others. It’s uncomfortable and we will battle it with every ounce of our selfish, prideful, sinful nature. Love will cost us something. Will we offer it willingly for others, as our savior did, or will we put ourselves first?
What are you willing to sacrifice for the good of others today?