What if Christians Led the Way Out of This? – Redefining our Freedom According to the Cross
July 22, 2020
by Christian Medical & Dental Associations®
by Emily Smith, PhD, MSPH
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free…You…were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself…’” (Galatians 5:1a,13-14, NIV 1984).
As an epidemiologist whose work is motivated greatly by my faith, my career has been anchored around helping the most vulnerable. I’ve often called the field of epidemiology “the field of the Good Samaritan.” (And interpreting the data through that lens). During the current pandemic, we know who the vulnerable are—and we also know what it means to not walk on by.
What if the greatest expression of faith we can give to the world includes not walking by? Maybe the harvest is ripe and we’re missing the opportunity?
𝑾𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒅𝒐𝒆𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒎𝒆𝒂𝒏?
That means doing what the Good Samaritan did—He inconvenienced himself to serve.
𝑾𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒊𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒇𝒆𝒆𝒍 𝒍𝒊𝒌𝒆 𝒂𝒏 𝒊𝒏𝒇𝒓𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒆𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝒇𝒓𝒆𝒆𝒅𝒐𝒎 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒂𝒄𝒕𝒖𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒚 𝒆𝒙𝒑𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒔𝒊𝒐𝒏𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆 c𝒓𝒐𝒔𝒔?
Without Jesus, the tools of wearing a mask and staying home can feel like an infringement of freedom. However, when we let Jesus redefine freedom according to the greatest act of self-less love at the cross, perhaps our witness is more than we could have ever imagined.
𝑻𝒉𝒆𝒔𝒆 𝒂𝒄𝒕𝒔 𝒃𝒆𝒄𝒐𝒎𝒆 𝒇𝒂𝒊𝒕𝒉-𝒇𝒊𝒍𝒍𝒆𝒅 𝒓𝒂𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒏 𝒇𝒆𝒂𝒓-𝒊𝒏𝒅𝒖𝒄𝒆𝒅.
Masks and physical distancing do not hinder our freedom or show fear; rather, they could be the strongest symbols of the cross and Galatians 5 we can give to the world.
𝐀𝐬 𝐚 𝐂𝐡𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐚𝐧 𝐞𝐩𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐦𝐢𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐠𝐢𝐬𝐭, 𝐥𝐞𝐭 𝐦𝐞 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐞 two 𝐰𝐚𝐲𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐢𝐬𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐲 𝐆𝐚𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝟓:
1) 𝑾𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒊𝒇 𝒘𝒆 𝒖𝒔𝒆𝒅 𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒇𝒓𝒆𝒆𝒅𝒐𝒎 𝒊𝒏 𝑪𝒉𝒓𝒊𝒔𝒕 𝒕𝒐 𝒔𝒉𝒐𝒘 𝒎𝒆𝒓𝒄𝒚 𝒕𝒉𝒓𝒐𝒖𝒈𝒉 𝒘𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒂 𝒎𝒂𝒔𝒌? What if we let it be a statement of faith not fear? What if it’s not an infringement of our freedom, but rather a statement of freedom through the cross? What if wearing a mask can become an overflow of mercy displayed on the cross because it loves and protects my neighbor?
It’s a perspective shift.
2) 𝑾𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒊𝒇 𝒐𝒏𝒆 𝒐𝒇 𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒈𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒕𝒆𝒔𝒕 𝒂𝒄𝒕𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝒍𝒐𝒗𝒆 𝒕𝒐 𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒏𝒆𝒊𝒈𝒉𝒃𝒐𝒓𝒔 𝒊𝒔 𝒕𝒐 𝒔𝒕𝒂𝒚 𝒉𝒐𝒎𝒆 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒎𝒆𝒆𝒕 𝒐𝒏𝒍𝒊𝒏𝒆 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒄𝒉𝒖𝒓𝒄𝒉 𝒃𝒆𝒄𝒂𝒖𝒔𝒆 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒓𝒊𝒔𝒌? Not forever, but one of the acts of faith we can have as churches is to stay online when cases are increasing (I would consider this being in areas with positivity rates over 8 to 10 percent). When cases are on the rise, the risk of spread in enclosed spaces is greater, even with masking and good physical distancing measures in place. Singing in enclosed spaces adds another layer of risk (see other church resources below). For a time, what if we did what we could in the church to be a part of the solution?
Please know I say all of this with great care as a person who loves the Lord, who has always loved the church, is married to a pastor and believes deeply in the value of what the church is and can be.
𝐋𝐞𝐭’𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐟𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐝𝐨𝐦 𝐨𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐚𝐠𝐚𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 c𝐫𝐨𝐬𝐬, 𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐫 𝐢𝐭 𝐢𝐧 𝐂𝐡𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐭’𝐬 𝐦𝐞𝐫𝐜𝐲 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐝𝐢𝐬𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐥𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐞𝐞. 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐰𝐚𝐲 𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬. 𝐋𝐞𝐭’𝐬 𝐥𝐞𝐭 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐂𝐡𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐭-𝐜𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐝𝐨𝐦 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐲.
𝐒𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐰𝐞 𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 c𝐡𝐮𝐫𝐜𝐡 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐩𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐥𝐨𝐰 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐎𝐕𝐈𝐃-𝟏𝟗, 𝐰𝐡𝐲 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐨𝐟𝐟𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐦 𝐮𝐩 𝐚𝐬 𝐚 𝐬𝐚𝐜𝐫𝐢𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐟𝐚𝐢𝐭𝐡? 𝐁𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬 𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐧 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐬𝐞 𝐚𝐥𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐬 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐚 𝐆𝐨𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐚𝐥𝐥-𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐮𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐟𝐢𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐚 𝐆𝐨𝐝 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐛𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐬 𝐞𝐱𝐜𝐞𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐥𝐲 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐚𝐛𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐥𝐲 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐧 𝐰𝐞 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐚𝐬𝐤 𝐨𝐫 𝐢𝐦𝐚𝐠𝐢𝐧𝐞.
– Friendly neighbor epidemiologist, Emily Smith, PhD, MSPH
*Praying Psalm 91 and living Galatians 5