Opinion: Why I Shall Wear a Mask
Preamble: I wrote this many months ago but never published it. At the time, I decided to allow the conviction of the LORD time to work within the hearts of those I love at the church and in my community. Over the months, I have received looks and questions at church about why I, a young, healthy man, continue to wear a mask. No doubt there are those who judge me as fearful or lacking a strong conviction of the LORD's faithfulness to protect me. This is not the case. This post shall serve, I hope, to explain why you will see me and my family masked for so long as this pandemic is a threat to our community. COVID has again returned with force to Northern Arizona, and so I am convinced that it is, at long last, time to publish this.
"If we live, we live for the Lord; if we die, we die for the Lord.
Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.
For this reason Christ died and returned to life,
so that he may be the Lord of both the dead and the living."
Romans 14:8-9 NET
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and all that it has brought to bear on our culture, economy, and politics, it is all the more necessary that we turn to the hope we have in Christ Jesus for sound instruction and encouragement. It is easy for us to be swept away in the polarization of this watershed moment—endeavoring to force our opinions and convictions to the top of the heap and, what's more, pronouncing judgment or condemnation on those who disagree. Today, I would like to draw your attention to Romans chapter 14, as it is extremely relevant to current events, specifically the controversy of whether to wear masks or attend church.
If you're short on time, here's the gist: We can not and should not pass judgment on our brothers and sisters based on whether or not they wear a mask; however, refusing to wear a mask is to cause a beloved to stumble and is not done out of love but of a lack of it. Paul explicitly reminds us to consider others more important than ourselves and that our choices either serve others in love through self-sacrifice or destroy them.
Romans 14:15-16 "For if your brother or sister is distressed because [you do not wear a mask around them], you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy by [a mask] someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you consider good be spoken of as evil."
In the 14th chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul addresses the controversy of a) clean and unclean foods, and b) proper observance of sabbaths and holy days. Of course, he is not addressing the wearing of masks during a pandemic; however, I believe the concepts and instruction he shares translate readily.
As such, I have taken the liberty of superimposing the question of "Whether to wear a mask in public?" over the question of "What food is clean?" in the following texts. I have replaced the "one who eats everything" with the "one who does not wear a mask" and the one who restricts their diet with those who wear masks.
I pray you to find this helpful and informative.
Part 1: Do Not Pass Judgement on One Another
Romans 14:1-3 NET "Now receive the one who is weak in the faith, and do not have disputes over differing opinions. One person believes in [not wearing a mask] but the weak person [wears a mask]. The one who [does not wear a mask] must not despise the one who does... and the one who [does] must not judge the one who [does not], for God has accepted him."
Note, I am not implying through the above passage, that those who wear masks have a lesser faith as there are a great number of motivations to do so, and not all imply a weakness of faith.
The purpose of my usage of this passage is to help us understand that there must never be any judgment between persons of differing convictions, not to encourage comparison of each other's faith or create some kind of "litmus test" of belief.
We are each of us, individually responsible to our Creator and Judge, YHWH. When we stand before the LORD, we will be made to bear an account of our actions and our "conscience bears witness and [our] conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend [us]" (Romans 2:15). It is not our job to argue or dispute with one another, for the unity of the body is greater than unity of opinion.
It is therefore vital that each of us is convinced in our own minds of what is right between ourselves and God. It would therefore be a sin for me to modify my behavior based on others' opinions of what I ought to do.
This also means that I have absolutely no right to judge those who do not act according to what I believe they ought to do. Paul tells us plainly, without mincing words, that to do otherwise is equivalent to despising our brother or sister (Romans 14:10), revealing our hearts to be without love, cold and empty, and storing up wrath against ourselves (2:5).
Even while writing this, I must pause to repent before the LORD. It is easy for me—as no doubt it is for you—to jump to conclusions about the motives of those around me. In the grocery store, I see those with masks and those without and I can, if I do not catch myself, begin to presume upon what sort of people they are. This oft unconscious judgment is anathema to the love of Christ—that is, I cannot be abiding in his love and have such condemnation buried in my heart towards others.
Part 2: Do Not Cause Another to Stumble
But if this were the end of the matter then well and good—we could all just go about our lives acting in accordance with the conviction of the LORD and "to Sheol with any who disagree!" Fortunately, Paul does not stop here, but presses on to the heart of the matter: "What duty do I have, if any, to altering my actions for the benefit of others?"
Romans 14:13-16 NET — Therefore we must not pass judgment on one another, but rather determine never to place an obstacle or a trap before a brother or sister. I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that there is [no need to wear a mask, myself]; still, it is [necessary] to the one who considers it [necessary]. For if your brother or sister is distressed because [you do not wear a mask around them], you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy by [a mask] someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you consider good be spoken of as evil.
Interestingly, Paul does not stop at saying that we should not pass judgment on each other but takes a great leap further, saying that it is the duty of those who are strong to sacrifice their preferences to those who are not.
It is the privilege of the true believer to sacrifice for his brother, and the one who has no conviction of maintaining a restricted lifestyle (whether that be in food or the use of masks in public) demonstrates love when he forgoes his own preference in the presence of others.
Why I Wear A Mask
After much prayer and discussion with my beloved wife, Jessica, I am convinced that wearing a mask in public (and at church) for the foreseeable future is the only right course. Due to our proximity to the hospital in Flagstaff (through Jess's work), I cannot bear the idea of inadvertently causing the harm or death of one of my brothers or sisters.
What's more, my goal is to walk in love towards all those around me and to do so, I wear a mask. If you are convinced that I am wrong, I must humbly ask you:
I wear a mask out of love for others. Why do you refuse to wear one?
With sincerity and love,
"So, let us not make the matter of wearing a face mask about the perfect execution of right knowledge...whether it be theological or virological. Rather, let us recognize the call to Christlike love. Let us take up the call of the cross, and willfully empty ourselves for the sake of another. Let us emulate Paul as he emulates Christ. And, if a refusal to wear a mask causes a brother or sister to fall into sin, may we consider wearing them as a way to express agape love, instead." Reverand Kyle Norman