The lack of grace we are willing to extend to others these days is really concerning.
Wearing a mask (or not) isn’t a valid reason to shame someone. Not wearing a mask doesn’t, by default, make a person callous or apathetic toward others any more than wearing a mask makes someone a hero.
Having concerns about privacy invasions does not make someone a tin-foil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist. Feeling anxiety about reemerging into the public square doesn’t make a person weak any more than expressing worry about the serious economic damage catalyzed by our months-long shutdown makes someone a money-hungry, insensitive capitalist.
We desperately need an infusion of grace in our society. People should be free to carry more than one opinion, concern, fear, or worry. These are complex times and humans are complex creatures.
So the next time you feel a knee-jerk reaction to lash out in either direction, remember there is a human being behind that tweet or Facebook post you just read. The people we are so eager to shame are just like us: they have mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, sons and daughters.
There are no exceptions to grace.
You’d be hard pressed to find a passage in the Bible that says, “Be kind and show grace, except when _______ happens.”
As Christians, there are no caveats to the grace and love we are to extend to others. We lovingly call out what is wrong and we must show grace to those dealing with feelings and anxieties different from our own, because they are often just as valid.
We achieve a lot more when, rather than standing tall and saying, “You’re wrong,” we bend down and ask those with whom we disagree, “Why?” The former shuts down a conversation while the latter could spark a dialogue that ends with a better understanding of what it means to love our neighbors well.
Don’t get me wrong — there is room for righteous anger when you see someone acting carelessly, particularly as they interact with those who are at greater risk of developing serious complications if they were to fall ill to COVID-19. But those conversations should be reserved for private one-on-one interactions, especially with fellow believers.
Loving your neighbors well may mean wearing a mask. It might also mean engaging respectfully with them when you don’t understand their points of view. Because, as the early 20th century theologian G.K. Chesterton once said, “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.”
When in doubt, show grace.
In Colossians 4:6, the apostle Paul wrote, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
And in 1 Corinthians 13:1, he wrote, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
Our neighbors live at every point on the ideological spectrum and range from seriously immunocompromised to otherwise healthy and at low risk of a severe infection. We should approach all of them with grace and truth in equal measure.
In all our interactions, we are to be kind. I promise you, people will notice, and they’ll be drawn to it. Because the gospel is a light in the dark.