It’s Monday Grace!
Get ready for a rant!
I am upset. Actually, I am upset with what I am seeing in myself. I have seen it so often in others and hated it. Now I see it in me, and I still hate it.
Where I live, all businesses are required to ask their customers to wear masks. All government offices, all gathering places, all businesses. Pretty much everywhere. So far we don’t have to wear them outside, but some communities are even requiring that.
Never mind the wide discussion surrounding effectiveness, either for myself or for others around me. Never mind what I think about the masks. Never mind how uncomfortable they are. Never mind the concerns about lack of oxygen or trapping exhaled toxins so they can be inhaled again. All that matters is that there is a rule.
Now, that doesn’t upset me. It concerns me, and I have my opinions on whether the requirement is a good idea. But, I can obey a rule—even one I don’t like. I don’t have a job where I have to wear a mask throughout the day, like so many people do. Basically, in this whole masking scene, I have it pretty easy.
No, what upsets me is what I feel when I see someone who isn’t wearing a mask. I find myself offended. I want to chastise that person. I want to report them to someone. Scold them; punish them; force them to follow the rule. And, frankly, I hate that feeling in me.
You see, I all too easily slip into the role of a moralist. I want others to do what I have to do, even though I don’t really want to do it. If I have to follow the rule, so should others. Right?
A moralist is a legalist without the religion. Outside the church, people who expect others to obey rules and feel anger when they don’t are called moralists. Inside the church, those who think that following the rules should be required of everyone who expects to be considered saved or spiritual are called legalists.
And I find those moralist feelings in myself when I go to the grocery or the post office. People who don’t wear masks offend me.
Oh, I know the arguments. I know why we are supposed to wear the masks. They are to protect others. Others may be more susceptible and more at risk from the virus. Even if my mask does nothing to protect me, it might offer a small protection for you if I have the virus. I understand that. And that goes through my mind when I see young people who care nothing about my health when they refuse to wear a mask.
The legalist always has reasons for his rules. He can argue about the effect of breaking the rules, even if he secretly wants to break them himself. He can tell you why you should be following the rules, and it doesn’t matter if he agrees with the reasoning. As long as he is stuck with this obedience, you should be.
For many years I worked with legalists who were angry. They judged others and wanted punishment for those who failed to live up to their standards. At the same time, they complained about the burden of the rules. They believed they should get some special blessing for their suffering. They expected to be honored for the obedience they didn’t even want to do. They often told me how good they were, especially when compared to others. But they were always angry.
I didn’t expect to feel that way myself, but the anger is right there on the surface. It is easy to judge those who don’t keep a rule you hate having to keep. The masks are uncomfortable, and I am not very convinced of their helpfulness. I don’t want to wear a mask in the grocery, but, if I have to, I expect you to wear one.
So, under grace, how do I handle this? First, I reject the anger and judgment that goes through my heart. I understand it as a manifestation of my flesh. Call it jealousy or superiority or whatever. And I don’t want to follow even the feelings of my flesh. So I pray against those feelings.
Second, I wear the mask for right reasons. Those in authority have made it a health rule. If there is a small chance that wearing a mask will help someone who is more vulnerable than I am, I can do that. And, those poor store clerks have enough to deal with. They shouldn’t have to argue with people about wearing a mask. If I don’t feel like wearing the mask, I just won’t go into their store. But if I go into the store, I won’t cause them grief. I’ll wear my mask.
Third, I will attempt to understand the changes in our culture. Wearing a mask on an airplane doesn’t seem like a bad idea after you have sat next to a sick person. In some countries it is considered rude and uncaring not to wear a mask when you have even the beginning of a cold or respiratory issue. We see so many people through our days. Maybe things are changing.
Finally, I will not judge those who don’t wear masks. Instead, I will set my mind on Jesus and follow Him. He is my Master and Guide. What others do is not my concern. I trust that He will keep me safe. I trust that others have their own relationships with Him (or not). Their morality has little or nothing to do with me.
And, as I walk with Jesus, I will walk in peace. I will not allow the actions or attitudes of others to take away that peace. I am not going to pray for the offenders as though they were stupid or wicked or broken. I am just going to keep on my path and enjoy my walk with my Lord. I restore my freedom when I set others free from my judgment.
You see, grace allows me to look at the feelings of my own heart and understand them. I recognize what I am feeling and why. If I don’t like what I see in me, I know where to go. To Jesus. I am not in charge of others, nor do I set the rules. I just want to follow Jesus.