The Michigan Governor has recently issued an executive order mandating that masks be worn in all indoor public spaces. It’s a mandate that comes with a desire to stem the rise in cases of COVID-19 across the state. Religious gatherings were granted something of an exemption, or at least informed that they would not be penalized for violating the mandate in their gatherings. Our church leadership has, however, chosen to ask members to please wear masks to our corporate worship gatherings. There are, undoubtedly, some who are frustrated by this decision. Let me suggest a few ways you can wrestle with this request Biblically.
(1) Believe the best about others – When the Bible describes what love looks like it states plainly that love “believes all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). The idea here is that love believes the best about others. Wearing a mask has become an surprisingly divisive issue. Some call it the “mark of the beast,” other suggest it is a political ploy designed to subjugate the masses, and others believe it is a preventative measure designed to help stop the spread of a deadly disease. Could there be any greater division over this issue? But whatever your convictions about it you ought to believe the best of others. Accusing your brother and sister of being “sheep” or supporting some anti-American campaign is not Biblical. Accusing them of being ruled by fear instead of trusting God, is not kind. Believing yourself to be smarter, more attuned and aware, and them as ill-informed and easily deceived is not Biblical. As you wrestle with the request to wear masks think about those who disagree with you graciously, believing the best about them.
(2) Think about loving your neighbor – This is a tricky one, because, after all, civil rights is one way we protect the common good. And, of course, for some wearing masks is perceived as a violation of their civil liberties (or at least the ground work for an onslaught of infringements). But unless you are a complete conspiracy theorist, it’s important to acknowledge that there is a real virus that has killed real people. It’s important to acknowledge that there are real people who are at risk of contracting that virus. It’s also important to recognize that wearing a mask, as uncomfortable and undesirable as it is, is the least intrusive thing you can do to care for someone who might be at risk. Paul urges all believers:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
Christians don’t prioritize their interests. They prioritize the interest of their neighbor. Paul goes on to ground this principle in the example of Christ himself, who, though he had actual rights as God (v. 6), gave up those rights to serve our greater need. Paul wants us to imitate Christ in how we think about our rights, freedoms, and sacrifices.
Even if you are 100% convinced that those who want to wear masks are weak in faith, which I don’t think is a good assumption, the Bible, nevertheless, encouragers you to give space for their so-called weaker faith. Defer to the weaker brother in these matters, Paul says in both 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14.
(3) Use your freedom to serve others – Galatians 5:13 tells us not to use our freedoms as an opportunity for our own selfishness, but rather as an opportunity for service. We are called to “do good” to the “household of faith” and to “everyone” (v. 10). Our first priority is not our Constitutional rights and freedoms, but our faithful service of brothers and sisters. There is no Biblical reason not to wear a mask in this context, there is a Biblical reason to wear one.
(4) Submission to the Government is Biblical – Christians have long had a tenuous relationship with the governing authorities. Real persecution and even execution of Christians has happened at the hands of governments throughout the world and throughout history. The early church was not oblivious to this reality, and yet Paul still teaches us to “be subject to the governing authorities” (Rom. 13:1; see also Titus 3:1, and 1 Peter 2:13). In fact, he goes on to say that we should submit to governments precisely because God has appointed them. In some sense, refusal to submit to the government is a refusal to submit to the Lord.
The one obvious exception to this principle is when the government demands that we break God’s law (Acts 5:29). But in expecting us to wear masks the Governor is not asking us to break God’s law, and we should therefore be willing to comply. While the Governor has stated that she is not going to penalize worshippers for not wearing masks in church, she has strongly recommended that we do. Christians have a bad habit of refusing to be governed, but the Bible tells us to submit when issues of our faith are not challenged. We can model good citizenship by complying with this request.
Whatever you think about wearing a mask, there are good biblical reasons to be inconvenienced in this way. I would encourage you, then, brothers and sisters, to wear a mask on Sundays.
Thank you Dave appreciate your biblical words of truth. We should never be at odds with brothers and sisters over a non biblical issues.
How about the hate and vitriol for President Trump from the staff at Cornerstone. Does Roman 13 apply here as well?
Very well done.
I appreciate how well thought out this is. It is all too easy to get warped out of shape in the climate of this age.
Wearing a mask will not help. Please Google Dr. Andy Kaufman’s website and his website questioningcovid. Also Dr. Mercola has clear scientific information on his website. Also we cannot bow down to an ungodly government, including unscientific regulations. I do not think Paul meant to always follow your leaders even if they are clearly acting in an antichrist spirit. Otherwise there would be never change for the good. We just would glorify ungodly leaders.that’s not what God wants us to do. Think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, he is one of my heroes. Did he bow down to an ungodly leadership, No! We need more Christians that are willing to stand up and also inform ourselves clearly what is going on including willing to learn in regard to scientific matters at least some of it. Dr. Andy Kaufman is a Christian, a psychiatrist and a microbiologist. This is a wonderful Christian leader and we need to support people like him, unless he spreads lies, which in my opinion does not. In my understanding he spreads the truth and good science. And the truth in these days is not always convenient. And the majority of Christians rather stays quietly in their pew place, speaking up is always hard especially if people don’t want to hear it. A true follower of Christ has to love and embrace the truth.
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