As of today, July 10th, 2020, Governor Andy Beshear (Kentucky) will require masks to be worn in public spaces for at least the next 30 days. Some think such a requirement is government overreach and unconstitutional. Others consider this mandate to be a simple rule to follow. My aim is not to argue politics or the constitution. I am not an expert in either of those topics, and I think politicizing every issue often misses the point.
Regardless of your political opinions on the matter, should you wear a mask or not? What if a judge has ordered a block on pandemic executive orders coming from the governor? Here's where the issue gets a little sticky. Who do we follow? What does the Bible teach on the matter? How do we move forward for the next 30 or even 60 days?
1. Is it loving or unloving to wear a mask?
A good place to start is Matthew 22:36-40:
He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.
Does wearing a mask help us love God or our neighbor? To put it differently, does wearing a mask hinder me from loving God or loving my neighbor? These questions should drive us to think deeply about the health and social implications of such a mandate. Does my wearing or refusal to wear a mask display a political stance more than a biblical one? Does my wearing or refusal to wear a mask portray an unbiblical measure of fear or anxiety? Does my wearing or refusal to wear a mask shout, "I trust (or reject) the government!"?
2. Is it sinful to wear a mask?
In Philippians, we are called to "approve of what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God" (Phil. 1:10-11). Let's break that down in light of wearing masks. Does wearing a mask stop you from:
If you can biblically answer "no" to these questions, then it is not sinful to wear a mask. If you can biblically answer "yes" to these questions, you shouldn't wear a mask because it is sinful either in omission or commission of sin. Further, if your conscience does or does not allow you to wear a mask, you need to heed Romans 14:23: "For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin".
Be warned, doing Bible gymnastics to twist Scripture to fit your opinions is dangerous business! If you're willing to do it for a mask, you'll probably be willing to bend over backwards to make more serious and spiritually deadly decisions in the future.
3. Is this a situation where civil disobedience is necessary?
There are times, as in the case of Daniel, where civil disobedience glorifies God—he was told to worship a god other than the God of Scripture (see Daniel 6). The high officials knew that Daniel lived a godly, upright life and would obey the government unless it pertained to the "the law of his God" (Daniel 6:5). This begs for our attention! There are situations where the world and corrupt governments will try to bait us into sinning against God. We must resist the temptation to sin.
However, we need to use the Word of God to discern when and how to resist governing authorities in such cases. We also ought to reflect on how the Bible calls us to relate to the governing authorities in our cities, nations, and states. This doesn't mean reading the Bible through your political (or anti-political lens). It means striving to take the Word of God as it is and applying it to the situation in front of you.
Romans 13:1-7 calls us to "be subject to the governing authorities" and not do wrong because "rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad." Paul refers to God's sovereignty over the rulers of the nations and calls us to "do what is good." We do this not only to guard against "God's wrath", but also for the sake of our consciences.
1 Peter 2:11-17 is similar to Romans 13. Peter calls Christians to "keep [our] conduct among the Gentiles honorable" and to "be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution" because "this is the will of God". He continues, "Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor." Peter reasons that living godly lives and being subject to governing authorities:
After reading these two passages, are masks inherently sinful? Does wearing or not wearing a mask keep us from being subject to the governing authorities? Are we following the revealed will of God if we decide to wear or not wear a mask? Who are we honoring if we do or don't wear a mask?
Let the Word of God Lead the Way
At the end of the day, you must let the Word of God dictate how you'll respond to the mask mandates—and any other government policies we meet in this lifelong journey. Here are three reasons I'll be wearing a mask in public:
I am not prescribing a policy for whether you should wear a mask or not, but it seems that this shouldn't be a hill to die on. This isn't a specific or direct attack on churches or religious liberty, so I don't see the need to buck against the system. You may disagree, but we must all strive to have the mind of Christ and "do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than ourselves" (Phil. 2:3).
Cry Out, Don't Complain
This is a hard time for us all, but especially pastors and church leaders. Before you criticize or complain, cry out to God on their behalf. You may not like the governor's or pastor's decision on masks, but remember that they are striving to make decisions based on Scripture and the flock God has called them to shepherd.