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The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recently issued some long-awaited, almost unbelievable news: those who have been fully vaccinated can resume life normally without masks.
Of course, those who have not been vaccinated should continue to wear them. I have been asked to give updated recommendations for safety protocols for worship services and other gatherings in the wake of this new news. But this announcement from the CDC has made things easier and harder at the same time. This new freedom is spurring mixed reactions and new things to consider.
It reminds me of a song I heard years ago. Many of my friends in high school joined a singing group known as “Up with People.” They toured the country performing a number of positive songs about the future and the importance of world peace. One of their signature songs was, “Freedom Isn’t Free.” (Written by Paul and Ralph Colwell). I still remember the chorus:
“Freedom isn’t free. Freedom isn’t free. You’ve got to pay the price, you’ve got to sacrifice, for your liberty.”
This was the era of the Viet Nam War, after our many of fathers, brothers and other relatives had fought in World War II and the Korean War. The yearning for peace was on our hearts back then, just as it is now.
Remember those who sacrificed for freedom
Indeed, as we approach Memorial Day, May 31, we know that freedom for any nation is maintained at the cost of countless lives given by service men and women in armed conflict. There is a price and a sacrifice that we honor with grateful hearts. Other kinds of freedom also have a cost. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) Freedom from sin, gained through Christ Jesus, requires a commitment to stand firm in the face of temptation.
In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul admonishes them, “But take care that this freedom of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:9). In this case he refers to Christians who are eating meat sacrificed to idols, which is perfectly alright in Paul’s eyes. But he is quick to remind the early church that some Christians are offended by this.
The caution is that we should not create problems for those who are more sensitive to this practice by freely and carelessly eating in front of them. The greater goal is not to hurt anyone.
Prioritize love, respect to preserve unity
The price is to curb one’s expression of freedom out of respect for others. We do this out of love for Christ, in order to preserve the unity of the body.
While the COVID-19 pandemic is waning, it is not yet over. When it comes to wearing protective masks, there are people who prefer to wear them in church to feel safer—vaccinated or not. If that is the case, would it not be best to observe more caution, so that they feel more comfortable? Each church needs to work out its own plans, but love and respect for everyone should always be your ultimate aim.
One more thing: even with these new guidelines from the CDC for those who have been vaccinated, the world is not free from this deadly disease. It is still ravaging many countries on this globe even as I write these words. Is it not true that until all are free, none of us is truly free?
We are one family of humanity, and what affects one affects us all. That is certainly true when it comes to the reach of international travel. And if we believe we are all God’s family, then it is most especially true.
In that spirit, let us freely sacrifice for others in order to hasten the day of full freedom from COVID. Let us give generously of our means to support the efforts of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and the UM Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Still engaged in an ongoing, global response to COVID-19, they have sent $110,000 to our mission partners in India to provide relief for those who have lost income due to the pandemic. They have also provided funds for the purchase of medical equipment, ventilators, hospital beds and hygiene.
UMCOR’s COVID -19 response includes ongoing support of essential health services throughout the UMC health providers network and support of communities affected by the grave burdens of this disease.
You can help provide freedom by donating to the UMCOR COVID-19 Response Fund (Advance #3022612). Send your donations to our Conference office or mail them to Global Ministries/UMCOR, 458 Ponce De Leon Avenue, NEJ, Atlanta, GA 30308. Or give online at https://umcmission.org/advance-project/3022612/.
Freedom isn’t free. Protect it and help all to find freedom by sharing with them your respect and loving sacrifice. The greatest freedom of all is in Christ Jesus, our paramount model of loving, caring sacrifice. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36).