To mask or not mask? That is the question that has been a topic of debate among people, including Christians over the past several months. Although I wear a face mask, I don’t enjoy it for a variety of reasons: it fogs up my glasses, I can’t smell anything but my own breath, and it’s uncomfortable. However, I wear it nonetheless. I wanted to share some reasons why as a follower of Jesus Christ I wear a face mask even when I don’t want to.
1. To protect the most vulnerable. The Apostle Paul dealt with a situation of whether or not Christians should eat meat sacrificed to idiots. Although he had no problem eating this meat, he was willing to put the needs and beliefs of vulnerable Christians, who viewed the eating of this meat to be wrong, ahead of his own freedom. Paul's reasoning for doing this is straightforward, “And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble” (1 Corinthians 8: 12-13). What I think about the effectiveness of masks is not the point. Care for others, particularly the most vulnerable, whether physically or spiritually, is the point. Here are some questions I think are worth considering: What am I communicating by refusing to wear my mask? What kind of message does this send to others about Jesus and his love and concern for others? Am I expressing Jesus’ love or my own desires and interests? Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. There are lots of things as a Christian that I have the freedom to do. However, my freedom should not be at the expense of endangering or being a stumbling block to the most vulnerable. If by wearing my mask I can help protect the most vulnerable while at the same time demonstrating Jesus’s love, I’m more than willing to do it.
2. To love my neighbor. Jesus, when asked to define who is my neighbor, shares the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Greek word for neighbor is defined as being near or close. A neighbor is determined by proximity, so where I am at the moment determines who is my neighbor. In essence, everyone is my neighbor. In the Good Samaritan parable, both the Priest and the Levite went out of their way not to be a neighbor to the injured man. Loving your neighbor is sacrificial, inconvenient, and difficult as evidenced by the Samaritan. However, loving your neighbor is fulfilling the second part of God’s greatest commandment. This is why wearing a mask, while undesirable, is a tangible act of loving my neighbor. Because in doing so I am caring for them by protecting them from any potential contact I may have with the virus. I am loving my neighbor by protecting them from potential illness. Am I truly loving my neighbor or myself with my actions? Do I have their best interests or my own in mind?
3. To honor those in authority. While our Government leaders’ response to this pandemic has been, at times, inconsistent, the wearing of face masks has been the exception. The medical experts have been nearly unanimous - face masks can help stop the spread of COVID-19. Wearing a face mask is an opportunity to practice the command that Paul lays out in Romans 13; that is, to do what is right and obey, and pray for our leaders. I believe in doing so, that I not only honor them but most importantly Jesus Christ.
These are my reasons, and while they may not be yours, I nonetheless hope that these reasons will help you as you decide how to navigate this pandemic.