On Tuesday, January 11th, a new indoor mask mandate went into effect in Delaware as a result of rising COVID infections in our state. The governor’s mandate exempted churches and houses of worship from the mandate. However, we believe that it is the responsibility of every Christian to care for their neighbors, especially those who are at-risk and vulnerable. With that in mind, I believe that a very strong case can be made that Christians should wear masks during our COVID crisis (and other times as necessary)
This is not meant to be a political decision, but a Biblical one.
In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul writes about eating food sacrificed to idols. A practicing Jewish person would not eat food sacrificed to an idol. Paul believes that his freedom in Christ permits him to eat this food because an idol is not really a god. But then, Paul writes:
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.1 Corinthians 8:9
Paul understands that there are still some Christ-followers whose faith will not allow them to eat meat sacrificed to an idol. They see this sort of action as sinful. Seeing Paul eat meat sacrificed to an idol might tempt a person to do something against their conscience. Paul’s freedom to eat this meat could cause a “weaker” person to stumble and sin. Listen to Paul’s solution. He says,
Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.1 Corinthians 8:13
Even though Paul believes he has every right to eat meat sacrificed to an idol, he sets aside his freedom and his rights in order to honor his brother/sister who does not believe the same as him! He says he will never eat meat again, just to affirm and protect the conscience of a Christian brother or sister! As Christians, we are called to look out for the well-being of those in our community over our personal rights and freedom.
How does this relate to masks? As Americans, our entire national foundation is personal rights and freedoms. We’ve fought wars to ensure our freedoms. We have the right/freedom to choose not to wear a mask. But as Christians, we are called to set aside our personal rights and freedoms on behalf of those who are vulnerable in our communities. A Christian does not operate out of personal freedom, but out of what is best for the Body- the community we live in through our faith in Christ- the Church.
James, the brother of Jesus, writes in 1:27 that religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: To look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. Widows and orphans represented the most vulnerable persons in any society in ancient times. To live truly live our faith out means we look after and care for those who are vulnerable. In our present moment, I believe that means the [American] Christian should lay aside their freedom of choosing not to wear a mask to protect those around us who are vulnerable and at risk.