In the midst of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, neglecting to wear a mask in public is to be labeled selfish, perhaps evil. Should we Christians esteem others better than ourselves here, deferring to public sentiment to show our love? (Ep 5:21) Would Jesus be wearing a mask? or the Apostles? Are we being prideful, disrespectful, and arrogant by not wearing them?
Firstly, one should affirm the scientific facts: there is zero scientific consensus that wearing masks is meaningfully helpful in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in a general public setting: mask manufacturers state this plainly in their disclaimers, and the CDC initially affirmed the same. The primary indication we have that masks are helpful is the constant drone of media and politicians as they stoke fear in gullible citizens.
Given the contradiction between science and the cultural panic, one could easily see this as a weaker brother issue. (Ro 14:21) Those who’s consciences are weakened through propaganda and misinformation see the mask as a sign of charity. It certainly isn’t necessarily sinful to wear one: Moses actually did wear a face covering to accommodate societal fear (Ex 34:30,33), so the argument would be that we should give up our liberty for the sake of Christ to comfort others. Yeshua and the Apostles would all wear masks if this is a weaker-brother issue. (Ro 14:19)
On the other hand, wearing a mask in this toxic, politically charged context – while it is optional — suggests to others that we align with a false narrative designed to disrupt and fragment our society; like it or not, we’re then supporting a political agenda to enable societal control and manipulation through fear tactics and lies.
Further, wearing masks routinely may actually be somewhat harmful to us, capturing moisture and toxins, developing mold, trapping carbon dioxide, and restricting air flow. Additionally, masks severely restrict interpersonal communication, making it much more difficult to display a charitable demeanor, or even communicate effectively. If 70% of communication is non-verbal, what portion relates to facial expression, hidden by a mask? Personally, I have a much more difficult time reading mask wearers, or even understanding what they’re saying. This exacerbates cultural tension in an era of arbitrary lockdowns, rampant unemployment, depression and racial unrest, and is yet another way to divide and alienate us. In this case, we can be sure that neither Yeshua nor the Apostles would wear a mask, on principle of not conforming to this world. (Ro 12:2)
To decide which principle should apply in our personal case, perhaps it is good to define who we are.
- Are we a weaker brother / sister who genuinely feels like we’re sinning against others, or encouraging others to sin, by not wearing a mask, and therefore putting the spiritual and/or physical health of others at risk, independently of how others view us with or without a mask?
- Or are we men-pleasers who simply fear being seen as unloving by those who wish to re-define love and impose their arbitrary definition on everyone else?
For a weaker brother / sister, doing our homework until we’re assured by reputable scientific authority that we aren’t endangering others without a mask, and are convinced that this evidence is sufficient to persuade those who are open to considering it, wearing a mask in public in the interim, would be most appropriate.
The man-pleaser is encouraged to repent. (Ja 4:4a)
As in most of life, our motive here makes all the difference. (1Co 3:13) If we’re actually wearing the mask because we see Christ Himself doing so, knowing Christ only does what He sees the Father doing (Jn 5:19), then we’re wearing the mask as unto the Lord and it’s a good work. Otherwise, we’re serving man instead of God (Ga 1:10), seeking to appease the world and gain its approval, thus acting like God’s enemy. (Ja 4:4b)