Our Church Health Team on Masks and Loving Our Neighbor

Our city passed an ordinance this week requiring masks and social distancing for the next several months in public spaces. As expected, this decision has been met with a wide range of reactions and opinions.

Beginning this Sunday, our church is upgrading our language from “we highly encourage masks” to “we are asking everyone over the age of 18 to wear masks.” I believe the vast majority of our members and attenders will graciously abide by this request, even if we have questions or concerns about the decision. One of the reasons I believe this is because we have already been doing it for the most part, with a spirit of thankfulness for the many ways God has blessed us during these difficult times.

Beginning this Sunday, our church is upgrading our language from “we highly encourage masks” to “we are asking everyone over the age of 18 to wear masks.”

This has been the case in no small part because of the contributions of our church’s health team. This group includes all of our ministers, along with more than a dozen physicians/chaplains who work in emergency rooms, hospitals, offices, clinics, and with first responders. Throughout these last 4 months (which have seemed like 4 years), they have provided us with reliable information and trustworthy action steps. We pray they will be the same for those outside of our church, who might not have access to such an outstanding group of leaders.

This week I posed these simple YES/NO questions to them about Tulsa specifically. Their answers were not only overwhelmingly consistent, they were nearly unanimous.

QUESTIONS for Physicians/Medical Professionals on Health Team: 

1. Tulsa Hospitals are seeing significant rise in confirmed COVID cases. 12 YES/0 NO.

2. Tulsa Hospitals are in danger of being filled to or above capacity soon. 10 YES/2 NO.

3. If cases continue to rise in Tulsa, there is a real risk of ICU bed shortage. 10 YES/2 NO.

4. I am in agreement that masks should be worn in public for the time being. 12 YES/0 NO.

5. I am in agreement that social distancing should be practiced for the time being. 12 YES/0 NO.

Long before COVID-19 entered the worldwide scene, we were already living in times when facts facts are lost in the realms of politics and agenda-driven messaging and the sway of public opinion. Social media has simply amplified the problem with more misinformation and toxicity, all of which is rooted in the real problem – our sinfulness.

What is coming out of folks right now is simply the fruit of what we’ve been planting and growing for decades here in the U.S. And far too often, we who are the Church are right in the middle of it. Though none of us can possibly know all the ins and outs of how best to move forward in this stage of the pandemic, we all have opinions!

So…I hope this guidance from very reliable professionals will be helpful. Their counsel is beyond value, but it is there is another command that carries far more weight. It comes from God’s Word: LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.

God’s command to love others in this way is second only to loving God with our entire being (Matthew 22:36-40, Luke 10:27, Mark 12:30-31).

My neighbor is more important than my earthly citizenship (Romans 13).

My neighbor is more important than “claiming my rights” (1 Corinthians 8).

My neighbor is even more important than my worship, gifts, and good deeds (1 Corinthians 13).

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

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