Core scripture: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18)
Message: Last fall I was walking through Big Bull Creek Park, looking for our Trail Life troop to go disc golfing. My son and I saw a birthday party banner hanging from a shelter with picnic tables, and a handful of adults were setting up. Suddenly, after we walked by, shouts rang out.
“I refuse to listen to you!” an older lady screamed.
My son and I looked back. I couldn’t tell what emotion was percolating inside her, but her voice was screechy high pitched.
“DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO, WOMAN!!!” a deeper voice shouted.
Curious about the conflict, we walked back at a safe distance to see a middle-aged man yelling at a lady old enough to be his mom. It very well could have been mother and son.
“You know that she can’t get COVID with her disease! All I want is for everyone to mask!” the lady pleaded.
The man dug his heels in, yelling back, “We are outside! What does it matter?”
A few other adults tried to intervene with minimal success. Had they not stepped in, I might have tried to deescalate the conflict as well. My son was shocked.
“Daddy, is that a … birthday party?” he inquired.
“Sadly, it is,” I replied. “Come on. Let’s go.”
My heart ached for the poor kid whose birthday was being celebrated. What a way to kick off the party! We double-timed our walk to escape the scene.
I am sure you all have your stories about hard core maskers or non-maskers. Ever since March of 2020 when quarantine began, masking has been a hot topic in our culture. Today my students will be returning from an extended double snow day five-day weekend, and we will be stepping into a building where masks are optional.
How do we handle this? If I see a kid coughing without a mask, should I make him put one on? Should I separate the maskers from the non-maskers? What do I tell the kids as they walk in my room? Should I put a mask non even though I would rather not? So many things to think about!
Paul addresses this head on in Romans 12. He encourages believers to be kind to everyone, blessing even those who persecute you. Paul challenges us, saying, “Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” I have heard quite a few “know-it-alls” over the past few years that think they know everything. These people are so abrasive to the opposing side that they are blind to the Lord’s charge to live at peace with everyone.
Oh, what to do? Here is my plan for tackling the optional masking policy beginning today.
- Greet each kid warmly at the door by name. Every kid deserves to have their name said at least once per class period. Building relationships at the door in a positive light is essential to get the day started off well.
- On my announcements slide, I will talk about our new masking policy, setting the standard. If you want to mask, great! Wear a mask. If you would rather not, totally fine as well. But during this new policy, we will not spew hate towards the opposing side.
- I will explain to students that I am not masking because that is my decision. I will let them know that if they feel strongly about me working beside them without a mask, I will gladly put a mask on to make them feel more comfortable, removing it when I am done.
- I will connect this to real life circumstances. When they get a job one day and work alongside others, there will always be a few that you won’t get along with. This is preparing them for how to deal with those people in a productive manner.
- I will diffuse any masking conflicts with the one word that trumps all words, and that word is LOVE. When you authentically love one another, how can conflict exist?
Paul ends Romans 12 in a powerful way, pleading with us, “Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.’ Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” Good always triumphs over evil.
Be loving. Be open. Be the peacemaker that Christ was and still is today and forever here on out. If you sniff out even the lightest scent of hate, let love drip from your lips like honey. The sweetness of that honey will always prevail.
Challenge: Tackle the optional masking policy by being proactive. Lay down the rules in love, and remind the students that they can agree to disagree in a respectful manner. If you see any conflict, “conquer evil by doing good.”
- “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?” (Matthew 7:3)
- “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
- “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1)
- “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5:14-15)
Prayer points: Lift up the following areas to the Lord …
- Praise God for the opportunity to teach students love and respect.
- Pray that the optional masking policy will not cause conflict amongst opposing sides.
- Praise God that Mike Clark, the Vietnam veteran I wrote about a few weeks ago, will be visiting my class this week, encouraging students to give back as he has in his life.
Just for fun: I thought this Mona Lisa meme was rather creative.
Prayer: Lord, help our schools and our society in general live in a peaceful manner pleasing to You. Amen.