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
How following Jesus works in real life.
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