Is It Our Christian Duty to Wear A Mask?

by Mary E. Stephens
Dec. 2020

Galatians 6:10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men,
especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

In the book of Genesis after Cain killed his brother Abel, we read, "And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?" Genesis 4:9 In verse 10 the Lord answers him, "...What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground."

One of the outstanding and well known facets of Christianity is that we are supposed to be our brother's keeper. In addition, we are meant to do good to those who are not even of the household of faith. That was the point of the story of the Good Samaritan, wasn't it? And yet, we hear people regularly making excuse for disregarding the basic kindnesses that will help to stop the spread of a terrible sickness. Worse, there are too many who are denying the seriousness of it, mocking those who do the responsible thing, and even claiming that COVID-19 is a hoax and doesn't exist. (Some of those people are ending up in the hospital now terribly sick and confused how it could happen to them since it wasn't even "real." Yeah, true story.)

The thing that eats at me and gives me grief is how people who profess to love God and His word have strayed so far from it in the matter of basic Christian love and kindness. I know, you have your rights - maybe your "American rights" - to do what you want to do and no government can stop you. But what if Someone higher than the national or local government has spoken to this issue? Because He has, and it is dumbfounding how quickly and completely so many have turned their backs on Him and sought their own way and will (Prv. 14:12).

Philippians 2:1-5 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 

This passage alone should tear the lousy excuses for not wearing masks and social distancing into shreds, especially in church fellowship settings. Most churches these days - I should probably say all - have people in them who have health problems that put them at high risk should they get COVID-19. Yet what are churches doing about it? Many are saying they have the right or even the responsibility to rebel against the government... No, wait... Let's be real here. They are saying they have the right to rebel against ordinary common sense and to do as they jolly well please.

But what did the Holy Spirit of God tell us in Philippians? And how does that look right now in a pandemic?

We should be likeminded - having the same mind on things, viewing the things of life in a similar manner.

There should be a similarity in how Christians deal with this pandemic and yet there are so many conflicting voices. It's no wonder the world is mocking. Christians have been marginalized for years for various reasons, but in this cacophony of opinions and "rights" many Christians are marginalizing themselves because they refuse to deal wisely with a potentially life changing contagious illness.

We should have the same love - loving each other equally, I think. Not making these people worthy of more love than others, nor thinking ourselves more worthy of love than others.

I admit this one hurts me. When I wear a mask it provides me with a little protection, but the greatest effect is how it protects others from me and my potential Covid infection. Your mask protects me more than my own. When Christians say, "You can wear a mask to church meetings if you want to, but we aren't wearing them," they are in effect saying, "We don't love you enough to care for you. We love ourselves and our comfort more than your good health." Does that sound like Jesus to you? It doesn't to me.

Furthermore, there is the issue of which lives matter in this. It is one of the tragedies of the COVID pandemic that the subject of letting the elderly die to save the economy or make sure life stays "stable" for others has even come out of the mouths of Christians. My husband and I have actually heard this.

As people who claim to be pro-life, we need decide if we are pro-ALL-life, or only the cute little baby lives. Are there people in our midst - healthy or unhealthy - who are expendable? God forbid! When the elderly, immunodeficient, at risk, and others are consider less worthy of our active protection than the lives of babies in the womb, we have failed to be truly pro-life. If we claim one but not the other, we are showing an unstable mind, not the mind of Christ or the love of God. I guarantee you that all life matters to Him!

1 John 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. Someone might say, "Well, then those people ought to be willing to risk their lives for us. They should come to church regardless." Hold the phone there. This is not a one way street. The point of this is that we should be following Jesus' example. He didn't love some more than others. We should be willing to make sacrifices for our brothers and sisters in Christ, not just expect them to do so for us. If that means wearing masks to church meetings so that everyone who wants to participate will be free to do so, well, that's a pretty small price to pay. Expecting them to risk getting COVID and being severely ill, possibly permanently damaged or even killed for you is, in a word, selfish. This is not being likeminded in the mind of Christ Jesus or loving like He loved.

And this doesn't even take into consideration the needs of healthcare providers and first responders who wish to stay as healthy as possible in order to continue to serve their communities while not passing on COVID. That would fall under the category of doing good to all men again, as per Galatians 6:10. As Christians, it is our job to help them with that and still get the fellowship they need and are meant to have.

I'm also not even addressing all of the healthy, fit, vigorous young and middle age people who have gotten COVID and died or have been sick for months now. It's a sad day when the unsaved are more concerned about protecting lives than those who claim to follow the word of God.

We should have one mind. I think these two verses express that best:

Romans 15:6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

In other words, having one mind is having the mind of Christ so that our thinking and our speech glorifies God and adorns the gospel of Jesus Christ. We should sound like our thoughts are coming from Christ.

Do you think Jesus would resent having to make sacrifices to care for the health of others? Do you think that it draws people to the gospel when Christians arrogantly claim they have a right to not wear masks or that it's too much trouble? How does true love think - about all it can get for itself, or how it can make life better for the ones loved?

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

We should not be doing things through strife or vain glory - there should be no fighting, no exalting things that are vain over things that are of true worth before God.

The rotten attitude about wearing masks to care for others both in and out of church meetings is sometimes blinding some of us from seeing much Christian love. People will say things to try to sound loving and kind, but when they turn around and mock at those who want to wear masks or take wise precautions, it's hard to remember they were trying to be kind earlier.

To clarify the seriousness of COVID-19, this is the death rates per 100,000 in the U.S. from 2018. The death rate per 100,000 thousand from COVID, at this writing (less than one year in), is 87.3 and rising (Source). That slots in between accidents and cancer compared to 2018 - more than strokes and flu and pneumonia combined.

My husband and I heard one man describing the early behavior of Christians during The Plague of Cyprian in the Roman Empire. He commended them for doing the biblical thing in caring for the sick, burying the dead, and risking their own lives even unto death. In a strange way he used this to try to say that Christians should go to church, but he did not bother to clarify that we should be endeavoring to protect each other in the process. It was also as if somehow risking our lives to gather in the modern style of gathering is the same as those early Christians caring for the sick and dead at risk of their own lives. It is not the same at all. He didn't mention what those same Christians did as far as protecting each other from the plague. Furthermore, although he said he wasn't telling people not to wear masks, he went on to mock at people who were worried about someone not wearing their mask properly and to lie about the actual danger of COVID. He appeared to be totally oblivious to the gross hypocrisy of this. How hard is it to wear a mask in church and public - to care for other people's health - compared to ministering to the actual sick and dying? Mask wearing in other normal activities is such a little, little "sacrifice" compared to that, it's ridiculous. And yet, it sounded like he wasn't willing to cheerfully and heartily make that small sacrifice for others when the people he admired risked their lives for others. It didn't make good sense.

And don't even start about the whole "you should trust God" thing. God wants us to trust Him and not be fools. We are not given the spirit of fear, but we are given a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7). It is basic healthy fear that keeps you from putting your hand on a hot stove. It is healthy fear that makes us teach kids not to run with scissors or knives. It is healthy fear that makes people use the safety feature on their guns so they don't accidentally shoot something they didn't mean to. We pray for safety and wear a seat belt. We commit our steps to the Lord and look both ways before crossing the street. We ask for good health and we still take our vitamins and/or medications, go to the doctor when we're sick, wash our hands and bodies, and brush our teeth. If you imagine that Christians will just be immune to COVID if they have enough faith then you probably should go join one of those churches where they play with rattle snakes every Sunday to "prove their faith." And just so you know, those snake handlers get bitten once in awhile and they require emergency medical help or they die just like anyone else would. A virus isn't going to respect your faith and leave you alone. God gave you brain and He meant for you to put it good use. Do what you can and trust Him with the rest.

I'm taking this a little out of context, but it surely applies here: Galatians 5:15-16 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. And may I just say? If you are going to prove by your actions that you don't love your fellow believers enough to care for them during this unusual time, don't be surprised and self-righteous when they walk away from you and your church and go find something else. Some people actually don't like being bitten and devoured.

We should, with lowliness of mind, be esteeming others better than our selves. We should be looking out for the things of others - not making it about "me and mine," but putting others' needs ahead of our own.

Our "rights" as humans or Americans (or whatever nationality you are), should not be more important to us than taking care of our fellow believers. And, as Galatians 6:10 tells us, we should be doing good to all men, not just other Christians

A Christian who sometimes works in South Korea posted something earlier this year about two churches there that decided that their "right" to meet in their building was more important than showing care for the people in their church and neighborhood. They disobeyed the lockdown and met anyway. Both of those churches created hot spots in their neighborhoods of COVID-19. As he pointed out, their testimonies are shot. It will be surprising if they even stay open. They effectively told the neighborhood that they loved themselves more than taking care of others.

Now, they weren't told to close permanently. They weren't told to stop preaching the gospel. They weren't told they couldn't have online services. It was not about the gospel of Jesus Christ that they were told to stop meetings for a time. It was about public safety. The bars, the restaurants, the schools, etc. were closed too. By changing the story to fit their scenario and making it about themselves, they have brought shame on the gospel and ruined their chances of reaching many people - in their own neighborhoods. That is not the mind of Christ.

We are seeing similar things in the U.S. There has been more than one church that had a breakout of the corona virus in their midst because they insisted on doing things their own way and for themselves. I have heard personally about a couple pastors who ended up in the hospital after outbreaks in their churches. One may have died. A church here in Texas has had COVID run through the whole church. If no one died from it, that only proves God's mercy, and they still aren't in the clear because they may end up with some "long haulers" who never get their health back or struggle for months to do so. It isn't pretty. The selfishness of that is appalling from people who claim to follow Jesus Christ.

When we esteem others better than ourselves we will be willing to set aside anything that is not a biblical command or doctrine in order to serve them. Wearing a mask does not defy any biblical command. It is inconvenient. It is uncomfortable. But, unless you've been strangled in the past and it gives you some kind of overwhelming panic attack, it isn't really too much to do, especially for the short time period of the average church service.

It makes me wonder when I think of the Christians that admire and honor the missionaries who have gone out to serve the Lord in places that are full of disease and sickness and real, genuine deprivation, and yet they are not willing to deal with the not-so-very-great negative side effects of mask wearing for the testimony of Jesus.

Wait. The testimony of Jesus? What does that mean? In Revelation 1:9 the apostle John writes this, I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

See, what we do is a testimony. We generally think of it being a testimony to the lost. We tend to forget that it is a testimony we are giving on behalf of Jesus Christ. In other words, our testimony is to others, but it is for Him - not for us, not for our pastor, not for our church, and definitely not for our "rights" or political party.

And while I'm talking about that, let's be clear. If you are refusing to wear a mask because "masks are for liberals/Democrats," you have failed to understand what it means to esteem others more highly than yourself. You have set your political views before obeying the scripture, and it might easily be argued that you have therefore set them above Jesus Christ. That is called idolatry in the Bible, just in case you were wondering.

Let's take a brief look at 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

- Warn the unruly. Is someone going around blabbing about COVID-19 being a hoax? Are there people mocking at those who are suffering? Do some downplay it and say it isn't that serious? (If you think these things, please, go read the experiences on this page on Facebook: Survivor Corps.) Warn these people. Tell them to stop playing the fool. Why? Because they are giving the ungodly an excuse to mock Jesus Christ. That should bother you. A lot.

- Comfort the feeble minded. Look, if wearing a mask did no good (it does, but if it didn't), but it helped someone else feel more comfortable being with us, fellowshipping with the saints, shopping, working, whatever - we should do it. Because that's what the mind of Christ looks like in action: esteeming others more highly than self - with lowliness of mind! Furthermore, it means making sure that person who is panicked is not just left to be afraid and alone. It means reaching out and showing you love them without making them feeling stupid or endangered, even when their concerns may be way over the top.

- Support the weak. Whether they are weak physically, spiritually, mentally, or emotionally it's our job to support them. Do you know what that looks like right now? Yeah. Wearing a mask and social distancing. Staying home from everything you can when someone in your family has COVID or was exposed recently. Keeping things clean where you live, work, school, etc. Calling and talking to that person who is afraid to go out because they are high risk. Compassion, that's what it looks like.

- Patient to all men. That means the ones who are staying away from church because no one is wearing masks. That means the people who are keeping themselves isolated because they are caring for the elderly. That means the person who thoughtlessly came to your house or church when they knew they had been exposed to COVID. That means that irritating, irrational person who refuses to wear a mask anywhere and boasts about it. Because, yeah, this works both ways. It applies to those of us who want to see more Christ-like behavior on this as well as those who are more interested in their "rights" and personal comfort. (Ouch.)

Romans 14:13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.

Now let's go back and pick up again in Philippians 2.

Philippians 2:5-8 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

What does the mind of Christ look like? It looks like Someone who had "rights" far and away beyond anything we can even imagine - He was equal with God because He is God - yet He humbled Himself, lowered Himself, to become a servant. He willingly submitted to the limitation of being a mere man. Our little minds can't even appreciate the greatness of that. But, even more, He became obedient unto death, to dying on a cross. Why? To save us.

Jesus did not value His right to be God above our need of salvation. He humbled Himself to help others. He left Heaven, my friend, Heaven. Do you understand that? Because I don't. I can't even imagine willingly leaving Heaven to live on earth, let alone going with the purpose of dying a tortured and horrible death.

Jesus Christ ministered to many different people in many different ways. He did not refuse to minister to some because they were weak in some way He despised. He didn't despise any weakness as beneath His notice and care. Living out that sacrificial mind of Christ should look the same on me and you (Rom. 12:1-2). Right now, it should look like wearing masks and social distancing at church meetings so that everyone who possibly can will feel comfortable coming. It looks like staying home when there is a risk of passing on this sickness, because for a growing number of people it is proving very terrible and long lasting.

As Paul later wrote and showed us, To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 1 Corinthians 9:22 Because it isn't about us. It's about the other, and how we can bring them nearer to Jesus Christ.

In Hebrews 5:8 we read, Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; Did you ever think about that? Jesus Christ the Son of God had to learn obedience. But He learned it through suffering. Not by insisting on His rights or His comfort or His "so-much-better-than-yours" ability to trust God. He ultimately learned it through the suffering of death on a cross.

Can I just say this? Crucifixion is suffering. Wearing a mask? Not so much.

 

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Thank you.

graphics and backgrounds by Mary Stephens
Dec. 2020; CA