Can I give you a mask?”
His voice was gentle and calm. His face was older than mine, but I wouldn’t really call him older — maybe in his late 50s. I reached down into the console and held my mask up for him to see.
“That’s one of the things I like about this job,” I said. “I almost never have to get within 6 feet of another person.”
He smiled and began explaining how he and his wife had been spending their days in quarantine. Since late March, the couple had been busy making and giving away nearly 600 masks.
As far as I know, it’s not part of a program or some kind of church mask distribution ministry, just two people finding a way to be a blessing to those around them.
He told me that they’ve given masks away to friends and neighbors, to at-risk members of their church and complete strangers at the grocery store. He’d approach anyone he met who might need a mask and ask them if he could give them one mask — just like he had asked me moments earlier.
It’s not a bad way to infuse some meaning into a time when most of us are just holding our breath waiting for the next crisis to surface, to spread a little faith, hope and love, in an age of fear and uncertainty.
In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul lays out his vision for what this kind of life looks like within the community of faith. “Let love be genuine,” he begins before launching into a long list of guiding principles that should mark the lives of the faithful.
“Outdo one another in showing honor,” he continues. “Seek to show hospitality … and never be wise in your own sight.”
This is far from an exhaustive recounting of the apostle’s instructions in these verses, but as I reflect on life in 2020, these four seem particularly timely. Four principles the world could use a little bit more of right now. Four principles unintentionally modeled for me in my chance encounter with this mask-making couple a few Sundays ago.
It struck me that they probably have their opinions about things. Perhaps they’re taking the threat seriously, or maybe they see the last few months as a massive overreaction. And they could have spent their time taking these opinions to social media, trumpeting out their version of the truth for everyone to hear.
They could announce their views on COVID-19 to everyone they encounter, scolding the masked for their lack of faith, or the non-masked for their lack of concern. Instead, however, they chose to lead off with love.
They are opting to demonstrate the over-the-top honor Romans 12 calls for instead of the wise-in-our-own-eyes folly social media rewards.
Now, it’s true that we have a responsibility to stand for truth. More often than not, however, that stand is better made in the arena of honor and humility than opinionated social media posts.
The world isn’t running out of opinions. We’re not running out of Facebook memes or snarky tweets, but sometimes I do wonder if we’re running out of honor and humility.
It did my heart good to see — even for just a moment — honor, humility and hospitality taken seriously. I can’t even fully articulate how refreshing it was, in an age of incessant fact-checks and unhinged conspiracy theories, to see two people simply walking in faithfulness to Jesus’ principle of neighbor love.
I’m sure this all seems rather insignificant to this couple. I can’t imagine them feeling like they deserve to be in the newspaper. But it’s not insignificant. It’s about so much more than just masks. It’s about refusing to be wise in your own sight and seeking to show over-the-top honor. It’s about loving your neighbor no matter who they are or where they come from.
As bad as things might seem right now, the world isn’t running out of honor and humility. I’m thankful for a chance meeting with two people who reminded me of that. I didn’t get a chance to ask their names, but I won’t forget their message. I won’t forget their reminder that, even in a world that feels like it’s one crisis away from losing its collective mind, the words of Scripture are still worth holding onto.
God’s principles of faith, hope and love, of honor and humility are still worth building our lives on.
Jason Koon is an ordained minister who lives in Morganton.
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