I knew it would happen.
Walked into church today and ran into three people coming out of a Bible study, one with a mask and two without. Here in Oregon the Governor has mandated that masks must be worn in all public settings. The two without a mask were quick to address the fact that I had one on.
“That mask isn’t doing anything for you,” one said. “Really,” I said. Then I was regaled a bit about how we don’t need to wear masks. I tried to be nice and just said, “Just trying to be encouraging to people,” to which one responded, “Nobody is going to be encouraged by that.”
Like I said, I knew it was coming. I told my pastor a couple weeks ago when we picked a re-opening date that this would happen – church members disagreeing about masks and social distancing resulting in – I won’t say confrontations but in disagreements and division.
So, my Christian brothers and sisters, what is the right thing to do here – biblically not politically?
Several scripture verses ran though my head as these ladies shared with me their take on wearing a mask. Let me share them and see if I can connect the dots that gives clear direction to we Christians.
Let me start with Romans 13:1-4
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore, one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience….”
I actually don’t think it gets clearer than that. Paul tells us succinctly to obey the government. So, if your government has mandated you wear mask in public you wear masks in public.
The only exception to this rule is if the government is doing something that violates God’s laws then we follow God but can absolutely expect punishment from the government for doing so (see Jesus, Peter, Paul and the rest of the disciples).
This then is the question: Does the government requiring the wearing of masks break God’s laws? No. You can still meet, you can still worship, you can still pray, you can still do everything you do as a believer with a mask on. The government is not rebelling against God here.
Now, I would agree that the government did rebel against God closing churches while leaving Home Depot open. Government easily could have had the same rules for both – limited people based on square footage, masks, social distancing, etc. But when they closed churches as part of the COVID-19 response I agreed with those who wanted to attend church.
Let’s go to our next scripture. Romans 1:13-15 says,
“13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.”
Basically, this means don’t do things that cause issues for a brother/sister. In this case it was about eating meat or vegetables. In our case it’s about mask on or mask off. Because there are people who are rightfully concerned about their health you simply put the mask on for their sake even if you don’t believe you need it. Let me show you an example from scripture.
In Acts 21 starting at verse 17 we learn about Paul visiting Jerusalem and being advised to take four brothers with him to a ritual purification so that, “Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law.” Apparently Jewish agitator had been discrediting Paul saying he really wasn’t a Jew because he didn’t observe the law.
Question: Did Paul really need to go to a ritual purification?
No. He did so in order that he not make his brother stumble. The elders of the Jerusalem church – primarily Jesus’ brother James – advised him to do this. He simply did so because he didn’t want to cause a problem that didn’t need to be caused. We learn in Galatians that Paul was not opposed to fighting against what he considered wrong theology; he took on Peter openly regarding the latter’s apparent separation from the gentiles. But in this case, he simply practiced what he preached – he humbled himself and didn’t make his brother stumble.
When COVID first hit I didn’t wear a mask. I actually have an auto-immune issue but honestly God’s will be done. Then I realized that others may be affected by that decision – not that I’d make them sick, but I’d cause them alarm or concern. When I came to that realization – the realization that I would make someone stumble – I put the mask on. Honestly, it’s no big deal. Just like Paul going to a ritual purification so that the elders would be comfortable I wear a mask for those around me feel more comfortable.
Let’s dive deeper into scripture!! Here’s the question: Is wearing a mask consistent with God’s word.
Absolutely! I’ll prove it in one word: Leviticus.
Now, I know many Christians don’t like Leviticus – heck, I’m sure many Christians haven’t even read Leviticus. But you have to understand what Leviticus is!
Imagine if you put together a million people who never had been a people group before but you’re going to make them into their own group. What would you need to do? You’d need to put leadership in place. You’d need to put some rules in place. You’d need to have some consequences for breaking the rules. You’d need to create a way to protect the people from outside agitators. And you’d need some kind of health care system for when these folks got sick especially if they were contagious.
Well, Leviticus addresses all of this including health issues.
What does Leviticus address?
- What not to eat so you don’t get ill
- What to do with people who have potential contagious diseases (put them outside the camp away from people for a specified amount of time)
- What to do with people who have contaminated themselves in some way or another
Go ahead and read Leviticus chapters 12-15. After you do so ask yourself this question: Is requiring masks given the contagious nature of COVID-19 in line with biblical principles?
For me, it absolutely is!
Now, here’s the argument I get from the other side: COVID-19 is real but it’s not as bad as the media is making out to be. I agree! I don’t think it’s as bad as the media and government made it out to be. But that doesn’t mean it’s not bad. There’s an old Chinese saying I like that goes like this, “It’s better to bow too low than not low enough.” Did the government need to shut everything down? Maybe, maybe not. But in the case of contagious diseases that could actually kill people with underlying issues it certainly is better to bow too low than not low enough. And as Christians we should support that level of caution if God says that if someone has a rash to put them outside the camp!
There is the slippery slope argument that government is gaining more power with the intent of limiting or eliminating our religious liberties. A right here and a freedom there and the next thing you know you can’t go to church! But you can’t examine that in a vacuum or even as an entitled American.
As a Christian I am told by Jesus Himself that I will have trouble in this world. Peter chides us when we think we shouldn’t have persecution for some reason as if it is strange! I fully expect to live in a world where my faith is under attack the same way it was 2,000 years ago. Never forget they killed Jesus and his disciples for what we believe today!! But as Americans we have no clue what true persecution is because we are so spoiled. “They wouldn’t let me go to church for three months!!” In China they will kill you for having a single page of the Bible in your possession!!
Brothers and sisters, nothing can stand against Jesus’ church not even the gates of hell and certainly not an order by the government to wear a mask. So, please have a sober judgment in all this and follow what scripture actually says. Don’t want to wear a mask? Fine, but don’t think you are more spiritual than the person who does wear a mask; I’m not sure scripture backs you up on that.