Covid-19… The catastrophic pandemic of 2020 has changed the face of our relationships, workplaces, economies and churches. Along with this many people now have face masks adorning their face. The wearing of face masks has almost immediately become a victim of the politicisation of everything we do. Conspiracists have also taken this much needed public health measure and misconstrued it into an image of ‘weakness’ and ‘control’. As a Seventh-day Adventist Christian I have spent some time considering what the case for masks from an Adventist perspective.
Wearing a face mask is mandated in many jurisdictions to provide an extra layer of defence to protect against Covid-19 transmission, this is in conjunction with other changes to our behaviour such as social distancing. Where I live (NSW, Australia) it has been recommended to wear a mask (even at church) but it has not been mandated yet (I expect it to happen soon) as such the decision to wear a mask would be based on a combination of health concerns, social concerns, and ones own personal beliefs/values. On a basic level, wearing of masks is most effective when the majority of people are wearing masks (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-face-masks-what-you-need-to-know). This plays into the motivation of yourself and others to protect each other from the virus. The messaging from governments reflects this when they stress that we all need to play our part. Playing our part looks like encouraging each other to wear masks outside of the home and following other relevant health advice as best as possible. Despite the clear medical and public health evidence for wearing masks, there appears to be significant resistance amongst some groups. This is often due to misuse of Biblical evidence, a fear of something they don’t understand or denials about the existence of Covid-19.
When it comes to wearing a mask there is many pieces of evidence we can consider from scripture. From a New Testament perspective, we immediately consider the command of God to love our neighbours in Matthew 22:34-40. Further in Luke 10:25-37, we discover the Parable of the Good Samaritan that springs from the question, who is my neighbour? I argue that with the knowledge that everyone in our society is our neighbour, the most merciful/caring thing to do is to simply wear a mask that increases our ability to love and care for all. Caring for our neighbours at this time is as simple as wearing a mask. We should simply do it.
As Christians we are called to not be stumbling blocks for others. I have watched from afar as many self-proclaimed Christians have pushed anti-mask ideologies as wearing a mask is a sign of weakness and a loss of ‘freedoms’. This argument is both illogical and unbiblical. In Romans 14, Paul discusses that when considering our freedom we should avoid being a stumbling block to those that are ‘weak’, as such it is easily surmised that the wearing of masks is an opportunity to welcome people into our communities and to avoid being a stumbling block to them experiencing Christ. In fact, wearing masks is an act of service to others and thus an act of service to God. Vocally denying mask wearing as a Christian can be an act of destroying the work of God (Romans 14:18-20).
For some reason the American political understanding of ‘freedom’ has infected the way we understand freedoms. Putting on masks isn’t a denial of anyone’s freedom. The same as wearing a seatbelt isn’t denying anyone’s freedoms, rather to is an act of service by loving one another. Galatians 5:13 says “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Freedom at its root is service that is pleasing to God. It is logical that we should see the wearing of masks as an act of freedom in christ through service. Living the Christian life in this world is going to look far different than it ever has before (Lev 19:18) We have to be willing to do things in service of others that we would have only dreamt of a few months ago after all we were not set free by Christ so we could serve ourselves, rather christ gave his life to set us free so we could give ourselves in ministry to our neighbours whom we were called to love.
As a Seventh-day Adventist, there is also something else we take from the biblical view. We believe in the health message pioneered throughout the mid 1800s. This is that our bodies are an amazing tool for ministry, love and care of others. As such we want to look after our bodies as though they were the temple of God in order to live a healthy, rich life in service of God. We preach balance and moderation in all, we also believe in proper medical care based on the latest and greatest medical advice. Based on this idea alone those that believe in this message should naturally think the best health advice available is what we should follow. After all, the health message is another way that we are able to be loving neighbours and care for our fellow humans. The health message and Covid-19 is perhaps another post all together.
The call to love our neighbour as ourselves and to not be a stumbling block is a simple one. Yet for many there are extra-biblical or proof texted reasons for speaking against the wearing of masks. It is my sincere belief as a minister of the Gospel that the wearing of masks is not just something that we should think about but also something that we should recover. Our loving response to our communities should be to protect the vulnerable, provide them shelter and care for our physical and metaphorical neighbours. As soon as I can, I will be wearing a mask and I hope you will too!