Community, the Body of Christ, and COVID-19
As I write this, many of us have been staying at home in self-isolation for more than two months and learning to wear face masks and use hand sanitizer on the rare occasions when we do go out into the world. The rules on self-isolation are finally loosening, allowing us to get our longed-for takeout food, garden plants, and desperately needed haircuts, but we are still advised to wear face masks and avoid unnecessary time where groups of people congregate. During my trip to the garden center this morning, the great majority of people were indeed wearing their face masks and trying to maintain six feet of social distance as we chose our plants, and doing it all pretty cheerfully even though no one enjoys wearing a face mask. But there are people objecting loudly and sometimes violently to being told what to do, even if it is for their own and others’ safety.
Americans value their individualism more than people from almost any other country. Many countries place the good of the many before the good of any individual, but Americans traditionally are passionate supporters of individual freedoms, rights, and choices. And that individualism has in many ways made America what it is. But as Christians, we need to balance individualism with the communal ethos of membership in the Church and the body of Christ. We may not be our brother’s keepers, but we are encouraged to modify our behavior to avoid hurting our weaker fellow members. We are not completely responsible for our sisters and brothers, but we are not completely free from responsibility either. The members of the body of Christ take care of all the members because bodies function best when they are whole and healthy. We can live just fine with only one hand, but we don’t deliberately decide to put the other hand at risk for no good reason. Members of the body are still individuals even when they are part of the greater whole, not giving up any of their identity through their membership in the body.
Taking precautions against transmitting the COVID-19 virus is actually for our own benefit as well as for others. It is hot and slightly uncomfortable to wear a face mask, but ask yourself if that small discomfort isn’t worth enduring to protect the lives of all around you. We pay taxes to build roads and public spaces for all to enjoy; we wear face masks and wash our hands to allow all to enjoy good health. Make this small sacrifice of comfort in gratitude for the health of all your loved ones, and be grateful for all the people who are making the same sacrifices.