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What the Bible has to say about gathering, mask-wearing, and caring for others
Joy Fan, Logos Editor
I recall one day during mid-summer, while running important errands, glasses fogging up a bit from my breath under my mask, walking by a protest in Queen’s park. I didn’t pay it much attention. I was aware of the growing anti-mask protests around Toronto and sticking around a group of anti-maskers was not on my to-do list.
As I sped up my pace, choosing to loop around the other side of the King Edward VII’s Statue, I couldn’t help but hear the words being spoken over the loudspeaker, even through the music playing through my own earbuds. “We’re doing this because we love our friends, our children, our families, and because we love God!” Cheers followed. The sentiment was echoed. The speaker spoke of being denied freedoms and being denied rights.
My body ached and my heart throbbed, but I kept my head down and I kept walking. I put on my gospel playlist and started reading the bible on my phone. I prayed when I got home. Now that the second wave has begun in Ontario, the thought struck me again. What does God’s word say about whether we should wear masks?
The first thing to understand is that we, as Christians, are not above the law because we follow God’s word. In fact, in Romans 13:1, it reads “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” The government has mandated that we wear masks, and so we should obey that authority, since it is also God-given. Titus 3:1 tells us “to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work.” Caring for others, and loving not only our brothers and sisters, but also non-believers, is a Christian way of living, and to do so, wearing a mask is also key. As Philippians 2:3-4 calls us to, “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” If we choose not to wear masks out of our own inconvenience, then are we not disobeying the word of God? Are we not putting ourselves above others?
There are cases where the apostles did not obey the authority of man, as reflected by Acts 5:29, where the apostles, following Jesus’ crucifixion, are also being persecuted, “But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’” This is also true. In cases where human authority does not follow the word of God, we are called to obey God above all. However, how does caring for others by wearing a mask go against God’s will as reflected in his Word?
One may say that churches are unable to gather, and indeed, the Bible says in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” There is nothing to say that gathering over Zoom suddenly becomes a non-gathering. Nor are we unable to encourage one another even if we are not together. And even more so, despite not being able to meet in large groups, in Matthew 18:20 Jesus tells us that “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” For us to be of one Church, we do not need to disobey, nor do we need to put others and ourselves in danger.
The pandemic has challenged many of us in ways unimaginable. It has challenged us to remember to love one another in such times of personal hardship, to strengthen and encourage one another, even though we may not gather in-person. I do believe that God has a plan for each of us, that He will protect us, and that He is loving. That does not mean that I believe the fog on my glasses is so unbearable that I should put others at risk. That is not love.
It is loving to wear a mask to protect those around you, and God calls us to love one another. To love our friends, our neighbours, our families.