A story; perhaps a parable.
Mike had been thinking about a thick, juicy steak at his favorite steak house ever since he heard that the governor was allowing restaurants to open again after all this coronavirus nonsense. Rib-eye. Medium rare. Onions, no mushrooms. Who made the governor God anyway? It was his right – his God-given right - to eat wherever and whenever he desired. He was unafraid of getting a bug, even if it really existed. If others were worried, that was their problem.
Mike entered the restaurant and things were out of place. There were far fewer tables and chairs than before. The manager approached wearing a facemask. Mike said, “Well, I see you are cow towing to the state. Haven’t they done enough to kill your business?” The manager, with an ever-so-subtle roll of the eyes, faked a chuckle and showed Mike to his seat.
The waiter approached with a basket of bread, but now with plastic wrap over it. He too sported a facemask. Mike, shook his head and said, “They just can’t let us have our freedom, can they? I suppose you have to wear that mask. No way I’m going to do it. I’m resisting.”
The waiter nodded and said, “I’m right with you buddy. If I could I’d take it off. But I’d get fired.” Mike said, “Well, all right!” The waiter continued, “But what they don’t know is that the government has been telling me I have to wash my hands every time I go to the bathroom to serve food here. I haven’t done it once.” With that, he filled up Mike’s water glass and went off to dress his salad.
Freedom is a battle cry for some. Freedom from being told what to do, how to live, where you can go and how you live your life is what America is all about, they say. Freedom creates a place where I can be what I want to be, and you can be you – as long as you don’t get in my way. Freedom is being free from rules and from responsibility for anyone but myself.
This is not the freedom imagined by our forebears. The Founders sought a kind of freedom not just from unjust rule, but the freedom to learn, grow and fulfill one’s potential for the common good. It was freedom to govern and participate in community that agreed on rules that benefited all. Inoculations, quarantines and the like are all present in New England long before 1776 and after.
This kind of freedom is also not Christian freedom. Luther, in his treatise “On Christian Liberty,” taught that “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject of all, subject to all.” By God’s grace we owe nothing to anyone. Because of God’s grace we are bound to love our neighbors as Christ loves us.”
Claiming that it is an impingement on “freedom” to be directed to stay home and wear a facemask in a pandemic is akin to saying that laws that restrict the speed limit and make murder a felony are impingements on freedom. Claiming that telling churches not to open for worship is a violation of religious freedom is no different than telling a church that when they build a building, it must meet the local fire and electrical code. We are all responsible for the common good.
In Christ you’ve been freed to love your neighbor and be a humble servant of the community that gives you lights, streets and a safe place to live. So, put on the darn mask, stay clear of your neighbors and help everyone stay healthy. None of this is about you. Stop protesting the loss of your right to be insensitive and go help someone else who’s right to eat has been eroded by selfishness and greed. Sorry, my right to be grumpy got a little out of hand there.
Tim Olson, Lead Pastor
Copyright 2020 – Holy Trinity Lutheran Church