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Should Christians Obey Face Mask Laws in Church?
Posted by Clare

A week ago I received an email from a person, whose state required the wearing of a face mask in any public place, and the leaders of her church were debating whether to obey. You only have to watch Fox News or CNN for a few hours to find out how strongly people feel about this issue. I decided to blog about face mask wearing because of the diverse opinions even in my own family. So, even though I’m probably putting my fingers in the fan, here are my thoughts.

Let’s begin by narrowing the discussion down to the state or local laws that require or strongly urge the wearing of facemasks, even in church.

It’s always a good idea to start with scripture. The Holy Spirit, through Paul says this about the role of government;

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

Here’s the general principle the Holy Spirit is giving us; The primary purpose for the State is to restrain evil and promote the good and that authority comes directly from God. The Church worships God, expands his kingdom and also promotes the general good.

Paul understood that Christians are both citizens of heaven and of the state, but if the state ever requires us to violate any clear teaching of the Bible, scripture trumps the state. So how do these ideas come into play in church’s decision to wear or not wear masks in worship. Here’s what I believe and why:

If a state or local government requires Christians to wear a mask in church, Christians ought to obey.

Here’s why; What law of God or scripture does the face mask wearing cause you to violate? The separation of church and state? Perhaps, but that is a constitutional question, for the courts to sort out. I don’t think God has a problem with it. I cannot imagine God being upset or disappointed with my worship, if I was wearing a mask. Yes, if I had to wear a mask, especially while singing it would feel weird and yes, I would not enjoy that at all. But that too is a personal preference issue, not some violation of God’s law, but it is a violation of State law.

Maybe if churches alone were targeted for mask wearing, but movie theaters or other public and private gatherings were exempt, then maybe that could be interpreted as the state’s attempt to limit our religious freedom. But that again is a constitutional question, not a spiritual one. But I’m unaware of the law being used that way anywhere.

The second principle we should think about is this idea of the “common good.” I generally try to wear a face mask in grocery stores and other places where there are quite a few people. I do not wear it to protect me. God will determine the date of my death, not Covid 19! I might even die from Covid 19, but if I did, it would only be with God’s blessing.

But, when I occasionally forget and I don’t wear my mask and I approach some people, I can see fear in their eyes. I see people stepping back to avoid breathing my air. Or perhaps they are old and their health is fragile, or they are caring for somebody who is. Therefore, I wear a mask because I want to love my neighbor.

Paul says this is 1 Corinthians 10:23, 24, 27-33.

“’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.  No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.  But if someone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice,’ then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience.  I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience?  If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?  So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—  even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”

How does this apply to face masks? Paul says, in effect “I have the right to do all kinds of things that are not sin for me, but they may hurt or bother other people. So, my love for them and their concerns, trumps my freedom to do what I want.”

Let’s not make this issue a constitutional crisis or a Republican, Democratic issue, for heaven’s sake! If I wear a mask for others, and not for myself, how could that not please God?

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:10

I have no problem if a spiritually mature Christian comes to the opposite conclusion that they don’t have to wear a mask, or they have a medical reason not to wear one. Then quietly, don’t wear it. What has to truly disappoint God is the anger on social media with posts by the “I have a right” Christians who care more about their rights than about representing a kind, thoughtful, servant Jesus who was willing to go to the cross for the very soldiers nailing him to it. We need to grow up. The world is going to hell, people are dying, kids are walking away from the faith, marriages are failing. And there are people scared to death of getting this disease who need to see we care for them. Wasting time and energy getting whipped up over these nothings is a sin. Christians should be the ones with the cool heads and huge hearts. Let’s keep our eye on the mission.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

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Comments (7)
  1. Donald Daily Sr. said...

    I agree with your logic and support your scripture hermeneutics and I personally wear a mask not because the statists mandated it because it is best for my situation and personal health but most importantly it’s to love my neighbor. I can however remember many times in the Bible where government was challenged and the disciples were aware the consequences of their disobedience. I can see and have observed what has happened in Europe to our Christian brethren for being sheep like. I’m concerned about incrementalism and Orson Wells in “ The Time Machine “ contemplates total Government surrender. I pray for understanding and as I get older the young man’s taste of freedom and exuberance still beats but faintly. I guess I must pose a question to you about Nazi Germany and the Governments role and would you be proposing the same philosophical argument for compliance? Not attempting to argue only to examine the extremes of the proposal and their ramifications. Thank you so much for your thought provoking treatises.

    • admin-3kr5M said...

      Donald, thanks for your thoughtful comments. Yes, the tension between what the State demands and what the Bible requires, is not always clear. But in principle, if what the State requires, is not antithetical to what the Bible commands, then I see little problem. But if what they demand is a clear violation of Scripture, then we are not to obey, but with the full knowledge that we may suffer for it. During WWII German pastors tried to compromise to make peace, but the need for control by some governments is insatiable. Each Christian must make the decision, “How far can I go without disobeying God?”

      I don’t have enough wisdom, or perhaps courage, to always know where that line is. That’s why I make it a practice to ask the three most spiritually people I know, and not necessarily my close friends who tend to think like me, for their input as part of my decision making counsel on these kinds of matters.

  2. Laura G said...

    Thank you for this post.

  3. Patty Doren said...

    Clare, thank you for your post. What I ponder is… there are many different medical doctors and PPE specialists etc. who contradict much of what is said by the government about masks. And even the States are on different sides of the mask wearing and other restrictions we find ourselves under here in Michigan. If the mask wearing is found to be unnecessary, etc. (unless the person has underlying health issues), has the church believed a lie and played into the hands of a strategy that has nothing to do with our own health? There are many in the US ( bloggers) who loudly voice their concern that the church is operating in fear by requiring masks. Of course, time will tell what was truth. Thanks for reading my pondering.

    • admin-3kr5M said...

      Patty, thank you for your comments. The issue for me isn’t whether mask wearing is effective, or not. That’s another whole debate. But the purpose of my blog was to make a case for a Christian’s responsibility both to the law and to others who are fearful of me, if I don’t wear a mask. I’m not fearful at all. And churches who agree to obey the law aren’t doing so over fear, but in obedience to the authorities God appointed to govern us. I do not like the “lockdown” imposed by Governor Witmer here in Michigan, but as a Christian, I am to yield to her orders.

  4. Jenn Tendero said...

    I love every word of this. Cool heads and huge hearts. Yes.

    • admin-3kr5M said...

      Thanks, babe. And for those of you who don’t know, I’m not being fresh. Jennifer is our daughter.

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