Seeing others wear masks in public has become the norm, hasn’t it? At first, it seemed unnatural to leave the house with this extra carry-on item. Now, I have a collection of masks in my car and a couple more stowed away in the house. Still, something I realized pretty early on is that I miss seeing people smile. Not to mention how odd it is to smile at people and realize that they aren’t able to see half of my face!
Wearing a mask or not wearing a mask has quickly moved from a health interest topic to a political issue. It’s very clear that there are two sides, much like popular politics. I don’t enjoy the mask shaming from one side or the other. A well-crafted argument doesn’t seem to sway an opponent, rather, it seems to stoke the fire even further.
I finally decided that instead of listening to the voices on Facebook, or even the news, it was time to see what the Bible says about this topic. No, the Bible doesn’t explicitly say anything about wearing a mask during a pandemic, but it sure does have something to say about how we treat those around us.
1. Love Your Neighbor
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22|37-39
As a church, we’ve focused on this topic pretty heavily lately, but what does the wearing of masks have to do with loving anyone? First, as Christians, we shouldn’t look to provoke or antagonize. To enter a public indoor space without a mask definitely makes a statement these days. Admittedly, there are reports on both sides of the spectrum here, but even if you’re not fully convinced that masks are even beneficial to anyone, aren’t we called to love others? Wouldn’t it be an act of love and kindness to respect those around us? Since there seems to be a lingering uncertainty about the effectiveness and even necessity of masks, why not err on the side of overprotection? At the end of the day, if we find out we wasted months of our lives in masks for nothing, it would be better than creating division between neighbors.
2. Respect Authority
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” Romans 13|1-5
We pay taxes. We follow traffic laws. Doing both of those things probably seem second nature at this point. Romans tells us that God has “instituted” this governing authority. Our lawmakers and authorities have been established by God. God tells us to submit to their mandates as long as they don’t contradict His authority. Wearing a mask in public places is a current regulation for our state, so really, shouldn’t this be an easy “yes” for us? The government is expecting us to follow this order and furthermore, as Christians, we’re expected to honor our government’s authority.
3. Where Do We Get Our Freedom?
“Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” 1 Corinthians 8|13
The freedom we have in the United States is a gift. We know that this freedom isn’t experienced by the majority of our brothers and sisters across the world, so I don’t want to minimize this blessing. But, the freedom we have been given by the country we reside in cannot be compared to the freedom we find in Christ. In fact, Paul challenges us to give up our freedom for the sake of the Gospel. If what we do, how we act, what we say, causes anyone to “fall,” then we should avoid that.
To sum all of this up in one sentence: if wearing a mask means we can love people better, honor God by honoring our earthly authority, or forsake our “rights” for our brothers and sisters, then we are only doing what we’re called to do as Christians.