There is a raging debate going on in the United States fueled by COVID-19 and our government and individual responses to it. Early on as the pandemic hit here local, state, and national government recommended and, in some cases, ordered us to stay-safe-at-home and only venture out for food, medicine, or medical appointments. Businesses closed, millions were laid off or lost jobs, no funerals, no in-person worship. We didn't like it but went along because we didn't think it would be that long and we could "get back to normal".
Things were fine for a couple of months but having our movements restricted started to get to us and many people started to think that government was trying to control us and we didn't like it. Our excuses started to be voiced and often loudly. "The government can't tell me how or where to worship". "The government can't tell me when or where to go". "They are trying to take my freedom". Then came the recommendations and orders about masks. That's when all hell broke loose.
There was a cartoon in an opinion piece in the United Kingdom with the caption “We’re All In It Together”. The cartoon (shown above)) included iconic statues from around the world and included Christ the Redeemer in Brazil and Michelangelo’s David. All of the statues, with one exception, wore masks. The one exception was the Statue of Liberty which had someone leaning out the crown shouting “Except it imposes on my personal freedom!”
I along with people throughout the world are dumbfounded by the mask” and vaccine divide in the United States. Something as simple and as basic as wearing a mask or getting a shot during a pandemic to control its spread has become a partisan issue. Why is there such a belligerent attitude toward wearing a mask in public in the name of public health?
The answer that is often given is the defense of personal freedom. Yes, it is often coupled with the distrust of government, doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and all things “deep state.” But the heart of the rebellion is personal freedom.
Might I humbly submit something to consider? What would it mean to put thinking about others ahead of feeling, public service before personal freedom, and Christ before ourselves?
Let me give you three especially important truths.
1. Face Masks and Vaccines Matter
While there may have been confusing, conflicting reports early on during the outbreak, there is now growing evidence that facemasks help reduce the transmission of droplets, and vaccines prevent serious illness and death The Wall Street Journal reports;
“Face masks and the COVID vaccines are emerging as one of the most powerful weapons to fight the coronavirus, with growing evidence that facial coverings help prevent transmission—even if an infected wearer is in close contact with others. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he believes the pandemic could be brought under control over the next four to eight weeks if ‘we could get everybody to wear a mask right now.’”
2. Freedom Has Limits
Individual freedom ends where the safety and well-being of another begins. We think nothing of collectively restricting the freedom of someone smoking a cigarette in an enclosed public space due to the dangers of second-hand smoke. That is a clear limitation of personal freedom for the safety and health of others. Yes, you have the freedom to smoke. No, you don’t have the freedom to harm others in the process. Wearing a mask never killed anyone; not wearing one just might.
3. Christianity Has Clear Commands About Our Interaction With Others
This has been brought into a fresh application during a pandemic. Commands like doing to others as we would have done to us and countless other “death to self for the sake of another’s well-being”.
Matthew 22:34-40 (NKJV)34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying,36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'38 This is the first and great commandment.39 And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (emphasis mine)
Mark 12:28-31 (NKJV)28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, "Which is the first commandment of all?"29 Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.30 And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment.31 And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." (emphasis mine)
Philippians 2:3-4 (NKJV)3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (emphasis mine)
Romans 12:3 (NKJV)3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (emphasis mine)
Romans 12:9-13 (NKJV)9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. (emphasis mine)
1 John 4:7-11 (NKJV)7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (emphasis mine)
1 John 4:7-21 (NKJV)7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.19 We love Him because He first loved us.20 If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (emphasis mine)
Could it be that wearing a mask in public settings where social distancing isn’t possible, or in enclosed places where the risk of spread runs higher, is simply a matter of loving our neighbor?
I’m not crazy about wearing a mask, but when asked to do so, when it would serve others to do so, I do.
Why do I wear a mask and get vaccinated?
● Well we’re in a pandemic and wearing a mask and getting vaccinated are the most important weapon we have.
● We’re in a pandemic and my personal freedom ends where the needs of public health begin.
● We’re in a pandemic, and it’s one of the clearest, easiest ways to show the love of Jesus to others.