Somebody Else’s Freedoms

I live in an apartment building and someone threw a party Saturday night.  I didn’t want to be That Person but I was sleepy at 1:30 am.

A couple things:

  1. There’s a pandemic.  At one point I saw the inside of the party room (more about that later) and it was a wall-to-wall, mask-less affair.  There appeared to be about 20 nice people holding red cups.
  2. The pounding bass could be heard throughout our floor.  I live about ten apartments away from Party Central and it felt like the music was coming from my closet.
  3. Several residents and I were gathered outside their door knocking in hopes that someone would hear us so we could ask them to turn down the bass just a little.  (They couldn’t hear us knocking.)
  4. Finally someone opened the door to take out the trash (which is when we saw how many people were in there) and he said he’d definitely turn it down.  (They did, two hours later.)
  5. Saturday nights are generally not party nights for Pastors  but I seriously considered telling the partiers that I was a brain surgeon with a procedure scheduled for 6 am and by keeping Dr. Jan from resting, they were risking the life of a twelve year old in need of a miracle.  It sounded more important than “I have to wake up and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the morning.

Connecting with friends is important.  Preaching the gospel is important.  Performing surgery is important. Loving our neighbors – even when they are rude – is important.

Everyday we see and hear about neighbors who believe that wearing face masks is important to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and neighbors who believe it’s important to allow people the freedom not to wear a mask.

This article is a must-read . Whenever freedom is described as “religious,” things are going to be heated. One person’s “religious freedom” might be the ability to withhold business from black people because of the “curse of Ham.”  Someone else might feel their “religious freedom” is threatened if they can’t harbor undocumented immigrants.  “Religious” and “Christian” are dangerous adjectives.

And personal freedom is more mundane than this.  Is it okay for me to burn citronella candles on my balcony if the people on the balcony above me are allergic to citronella?  What if it’s safer for me to walk the dog in the bike lane instead of the sidewalk, which means bicyclists have to go around me?  Is it okay for me to buy all the toilet paper?

Individual freedoms have trumped (sorry) the common good for a while now and this is not merely a legal concern or a public health concern or a capitalist concern.  This is a spiritual concern.

Weighing what is most important is a daily task.  Sometimes it’s easy. (The need for socially isolated people to gather loudly or the need for people to sleep at 2 am.)  Sometimes it’s less clear. (The need for students to get back to school or the need for teachers and staff to feel safe.)

But the bottom line is about how we treat our neighbors.  Can we see the world through their lens – not necessarily to change our own minds but  – to try to understand where they are coming from?  Can we compromise?  Can we try to see them through the eyes of Jesus.  (This one really helps me when I want to choke someone.)

Imagine if we Christians were known for loving our neighbors as ourselves.

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