I never thought masks would be controversial. Welcome to 2020, where the complexities of a global pandemic have us debating the finer points of mask-wearing. One Ohio State Representative is refusing to wear a mask (he used Scripture to justify his refusal). US officials including Surgeon General Jerome Adams and Vice President Mike Pence have urged people against buying and wearing masks. Although they have both (to some degree) reversed their advice, it reveals the dynamic political nature of the debate. The mask has become a political statement in the coronavirus era.
To Mask or Not to Mask?
The county officials where I live made mask-wearing mandatory in most public settings. Some people cried foul. My question is: “Would Jesus wear a mask?”
Let me get a few important questions out of the way:
The constitutional question: You have the right to protest mandatory mask-wearing (in fact, you have the right to protest just about anything under the sun). In addition, you have the right to engage in civil disobedience of any law you think unjust (although you must be ready to pay the price of civil disobedience).
The science question: The evidence is unclear on the impact of mask-wearing (although it may or may not be detrimental to the wearer, most seem to agree that it helps prevent the spread to others).
The political question: You have the right to your opinion on the politics of the pandemic (it’s all a hoax, it’s the Democrats trying to hurt the economy, it’s the government trying to get control of our lives, etc.).
The conspiracy question: You have the right to believe whatever narrative you think accurate (with thousands of conspiracy theories on everything from aliens to assassinations, the statistical probability is that a few of them will turn out to be true, albeit with lottery-sized odds).
The economic question: You have the right to your opinion on how the pandemic should be handled in the economic world (no shelter in place, shelter only the high-risk population, open businesses with a few restrictions, etc.). You also have the right (and responsibility) to hold political leaders accountable for decisions that impact the pocketbooks of millions of Americans.
The Christian question: What would Jesus do? Would Jesus wear a mask?
What Would Jesus Do?
I want to address ONLY the last question.
It’s not that the others are unimportant (there are thousands of articles addressing them) — it’s just that my area of expertise is the Bible and the life of Jesus.
I passed freshman chemistry, but that doesn’t make me a virologist. So please don’t regale me with all your Google-knowledge on the science behind mask-wearing, pandemics, or vaccines (especially if you never even took freshman chemistry).
My advanced degrees are in Biblical interpretation. I’ll try to stick to that.
In addition, I’m not interested in the topic of “constitutional rights.” I’m not a constitutional expert, but I’ve already given you that one — you have the right to refuse to wear a mask. I don’t think you should be punished for that.
However, just because I can legally do something, doesn’t mean I should. I have the legal right to go out and get drunk tonight. That doesn’t mean I should.
The Christ-follower always places the ethical question above the legal question.
I simply want to know what Jesus would do about the mask. Would he wear one? That should be the Christian’s governing question.
I do need to make one reasonable scientific assumption — wearing a mask has a good chance of preventing me from spreading the virus to others if I turn out to be an asymptomatic carrier. There is strong evidence that a mask will keep you from giving the virus to others (some tests claim as low as a 50% reduction).
The Biblical Evidence
With that one assumption in mind, what would Jesus do? This is really easy.
Jesus taught us to love our neighbor.
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12).
When asked to name the greatest commandment in the Mosaic Law, Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).
Wearing a mask screams, “I love you the way I want to be loved.”
If there’s even the slightest chance that you have the virus, I want you to protect me from getting it. That’s what I would want. According to Jesus, I should do to others as I would want them to do for me.
Jesus taught us to love sacrificially.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
There are some who claim that mask-wearing could be detrimental to the person wearing it. The reasons they give make sense.
However, they are irrelevant to the Biblical argument. Jesus taught us to love people, even if it means putting ourselves in danger. In fact, this is the ultimate show of love.
When I wear a mask, I tell people that I am willing to put myself at risk in order to protect them.
This also destroys the “constitutional rights” argument. I don’t deny that I have the constitutional right to refuse a mask.
In fact, that makes my mask-wearing an even more powerful statement — “I gladly give up my rights for the good of my neighbor.”
Jesus gave up all his rights in order to die on the cross.
Jesus was the rightful Son of the living God. He was the rightful ruler over all things, sitting on his throne in heaven. He emptied himself of all those rights in order to become flesh. He divested himself of his divine prerogatives in order to save us from our sins (Phil. 2:1-11).
And he calls us to do the same.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me'” (Matt. 16:24).
Jesus was willing to take up a cross in order to save lives. Please don’t tell me you won’t even take up a mask to do the same.
Jesus taught us to love unconditionally.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
I don’t deserve anything that God has given me. I am so thankful he didn’t base his love for me on my character.
The Bible tells us that we mirror God’s love for us by the way we love others (1 John 4:19). Jesus told us that whenever we show love to another person, we have actually shown our love for HIM (Matt. 25:40).
Jesus told us that God’s love in us is so strong that he even enables us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44).
It doesn’t matter who the person standing six feet away from you is — you are called to love them.
Both of my sons have asthma. There is some debate about whether or not this places them in a high-risk category. I don’t care. I’m not taking any chances.
My love for them is unconditional.
The Image of God
An Ohio State Representative refused to wear a mask because he said that we are created in the image of God and a mask would cover that image. He needs to stick to politics and stay away from biblical interpretation.
The image of God is within us — no one can ever hide that.
When Moses came down from the mountain of God, his face shone with the shekinah glory of God. The people were afraid. They believed that to see God would kill them. Moses covered his face with a veil in order to ease their fears (Exodus 34:29-35).
Was Moses’ shining face really going to hurt the people? Probably not. But they were afraid that it might, and that was enough reason for Moses. He put on the veil.
I would encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit — NOT, “What do I have the right to do?” — BUT, “What should I do?”
Ask Jesus. You’ll have to listen carefully — he’ll be answering through his mask.