For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence.
As I write this column I am, like so many others, living in an in-between time. One vaccine shot—done. Now, I wait for my turn for the second shot. So close, but not quite there. It is becoming a common greeting: “Have you had your vaccine yet?” Photos of vaccination cards or even folks posing with big smiles while sporting a bandage on their arm are regular social media updates. When we gather on Zoom and folks share they’ve received a vaccination, the whole group cheers in celebration! In a recent update on March 29th our governor announced that 40% of Kentucky adults have been vaccinated, with approximately 70% of Kentuckians over the age of 70 vaccinated.
We are getting closer to the time when we can resume many of the activities we love to do. According to CDC guidelines once vaccinated, we can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask. And a vaccinated person can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household—which means for example, vaccinated grandparents can visit with grandchildren again. It has been a long wait.
The same day he announced 40% of Kentuckians had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the governor also shared there were 11 new deaths in Kentucky. And new virus variants are on the rise in the state as well, which means we’re not out of this. We’re all still in that fuzzy and frustrating in-between time.
I believe in this moment we as Christians have an opportunity to live out Christ’s call to care for our neighbors as ourselves in powerful and tangible ways. There are strident voices in our world, those shouting freedom and rejecting masks as theater, but their understanding of freedom is truncated. Whether they are religious leaders, elected officials, or folks who live in our neighborhoods, theirs is a shallow freedom for the individual alone without regard for the common good. In contrast, Christians understand that Christ has set us free to live out true freedom, freedom which is lived out in love and service to one another. That’s the way of Jesus, not protesting public health measures. We are to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit for which Paul advocates,
“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Indeed, there is no law against such things.
Let’s take up Paul’s challenge. Let’s be people of great love. People who care for our neighbors. People who practice patience and kindness in our interactions. And yes, people who continue to wear face masks in public, not for ourselves, but for those we meet.
We’re so close. We can do this.
A native of Illinois, Rev. Nancy Gowler lived for 26 years in the Pacific Northwest. She joined the ministry of First Christian Church in Morehead, KY, in July of 2020.