Across from our house is a cemetery.
My desk faces the window and sometimes, while I’m working, I watch grave diggers prepare the ground for a burial. I see families slowly work their way up the long drive. I observe people gather under a blue tent to say goodbye to someone they love.
Today I watched another funeral.
There were about fifteen people present: funeral home employees, a minister, and the family. The size of the procession leads me to believe the person who died was older.
There were only two people in attendance not wearing masks, the minister and the man who rode with him. Everyone else—family and friends saying goodbye, workers from the mortuary—was wearing masks.
I watched the minister walk around hugging people. He knelt down to get in the face of an elderly woman sitting graveside.
It reminded me of what my friend Shannon said on the internet last week: the American church is not under attack, it is being examined.
And what’s showing up under examination is ugly and fake and flimsy. What’s showing up is pride and self centeredness, superiority and ignorance.
Things of the church are falling apart, because they weren’t built well to begin with. That’s not God’s fault. That’s not the fault of someone who would rather you say “Happy Holidays” than “Merry Christmas.”
It’s our fault.
We read the Bible, said we wanted to follow Jesus, then created our own rules and work-arounds. We believed the lie that America is a Christian nation without trying to be very Christian-y. We thought the name and Sunday morning attendance and the Bible verse framed on the wall covered us.
But when the world began to notice our words and actions didn’t often line up, we got angry. We were quick to say how dare you. We made excuses and twisted scripture and said God has already numbered our days so who needs a mask?
Imagine driving drunk. We know the consequences of driving intoxicated. It could hurt us and others. It could kill people.
But instead of choosing to not drive drunk, we say God’s in control and we get behind the wheel anyway. Because—of course—God has numbered our days. Then when horrible things happen, we just call it God’s will. God’s plan. God knew, obviously. He knew before we were even born.
Knowing something and planning something are two very different things. God doesn’t plan death. He literally sent His son to conquer death. He sent His son so the grave was not the final answer.
But we can still get to death quicker by our actions. And we can take others with us if we desire. Free will is still ours for the taking.
If I decide to drive drunk, it’s not God’s fault or plan when people die. He gave us the choice. He lets us choose, always. We always, always have a choice. We have a choice of obedience or death. We have a choice of others before ourselves or me first always.
St. Teresa of Kolkata said, “When a poor person dies of hunger, it has happened not because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.”
We’re not giving our neighbors what they need right now. On so many levels.
I don’t care if you believe COVID-19 came from the Democrats to win the election. I don’t care if you think China did this on purpose. I don’t care if you think it’s only as serious as the common flu.
Putting others before ourselves is our calling as Christians. Sacrifice and kindness to others is the way of Jesus. We don’t get to call ourselves Christians and then pick and choose what parts of Jesus’ message we want to follow.
Picking up His cross acknowledged His ways are better than ours. And His ways always elevate our neighbor above ourselves.
Right now, our neighbors are watching us. Imagine the damage we’re doing to people who know we follow Jesus. That we say their health doesn’t matter. That we say they’re worth the risk for our pride.
I’d want none of that Jesus you’re selling me. Not one bit.
Can you imagine being a minister in the middle of a pandemic, showing up to serve people who have lost someone, and not caring enough about those people to wear a mask?
Words don’t matter here. It doesn’t matter what you claim, it doesn’t matter what hope you try to share as you stand behind the casket of our loved one. It doesn’t matter who you say you follow or what label you give yourself. If your words (I follow Jesus!) and your actions (Your health and safety don’t matter enough for me to be inconvenienced!) don’t match up, it’s not your actions that are lying, it’s your words.
I want none of that Jesus you’re selling me. Not one bit.
And neither do all the people watching you.
Shannon is right, the American church is being examined. And what’s being uncovered is sin and death.
And look at us: instead of repentance, instead of asking for forgiveness, instead of caring for our neighbors, we’re doubling down. We’re hiding more, screaming louder, making more excuses, demanding more from people.
God didn’t make COVID-19 happen. God didn’t create it or plan it. But He is calling us to show the world how well we show up in crisis. And I think—for a lot of us—He’s not surprised with our actions because He knew what was in our hearts the whole time. He’s just letting others in on the secret now too.