“Christian, wear your mask.”
On the horizon is a potential for conflict and division: different localities are passing different mandates but a universal trend is appearing that requires individuals to wear masks. There many differing perspectives and pros and cons, but I want to share my perspective of how I believe Christians should act. Let us begin with a parallel argument that I often heard in my evangelical/Christian circles growing up. Made by a seventeenth century French philosopher Blaise Paschal, the argument is as follows: If a rational person believes in God, they should live as though that belief were true. If God does not actually exist, there is only a finite loss. If God does exist, there is infinite reward. This has been simplified and popularized in modernity by a different sort of philosopher, Christian rap artist Lecrae as such: “If I’m wrong about God, I have wasted my life. If you’re wrong about God, you’ve wasted eternity. “Paschal’s Wager” is an apt name as this catches the idea of basing belief in God as a prudent choice and smart bet. The cost of being wrong is far outweighed by the potential reward of being right. I want us, as believers united in Christ, to weight the cost of wearing a mask.
Our conversation takes place in a different context. In an age of Fake News, competing narratives, and shifting advice, it seems that skepticism is becoming a popular perspective in the public setting. So when a decision comes down that wearing masks is mandated, whether by a private store, government directive, or maybe even a church, the human instinct to balk at authority seems only fitting. But let’s entertain objectivity and weigh our options in a manner that is parallel to Paschal’s Wager. So Christians, wear your mask. If we are wrong about this virus, you have lost personal comfort only so long as the mask is worn. But if we are right, masks might be tools that ensure the health and longevity of those around us. Christian, when you wrestle with the decision to wear a mask, weigh the cost. What if you are wrong; what if you are right?
There may already be some opposition to these conditions. After all, wearing a mask may be considered to be more than simply sacrificing comfort. Wearing a mask may be symbolic to some of government overreach and tyranny as the government seeks to control people or a struggle for individual liberty and personal agency. What right does a democratic authority have to dictate such specific and truly limiting decrees for individuals? I am more than happy to have that conversation about personal liberty, greater good, principled convictions, and civil disobedience. But if you are a Christian, all of those are framed within the Greatest Commandments: love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love others in the same manner (Matthew 22:37-40). That is the preeminent condition to which all other Christian obligations are due. Before a Christian can fight for individual liberty, it must be shown to also be a fight for God’s love and love of neighbor. Before a Christian can protest civil injustice, it must align with a deep love for God and outpouring of that love onto our neighbors.
Within this framework, I do not see a convincing argument for not wearing a mask. Once again, let us assume we are wrong about masks: all that is lost is a secondary priority for Christians: personal comfort, individual liberty, and personal rights. But if those who advocate for wearing a mask are right and we as Christians chose not to wear masks, what is the cost? Are our own inalienable rights worth the well-being of our neighbor? Is our personal comfort level more important than loving and serving our neighbor? Again let me say, unequivocally, for Christians, I cannot imagine a convincing argument for placing our personal preferences, comfort levels, political inclinations, and/or individual freedoms over the possibility of hurting others, damaging our witness as ambassadors of Christ, actively defying wise counsel and prudent guidance, and being a poor steward of Christ’s Gospel, which compels us to actively look for opportunities to give of ourselves for the sake of others growing closer to God.
Christ warns His followers a time is coming of danger, persecution, and death to those who earnestly seek to further the kingdom of God. Christians we cannot mistake perceived affronts to liberty and our own comfort as the most pressing need of our age. That is only for those ignorant of what it means to follow Christ. It means weighing the cost of potential homelessness, abandonment, and genuine danger, as being nothing compared to the cost of Discipleship (Matthew 8:18-27). To follow Christ is to seek the promotion of God and others before oneself. Of course this task is truly daunting: yet that is why the church ought to be a bastion of grace and wellspring of mercy, to remind others of what a community that is solely based on the glory of God and prospering of others ought to look like. That is why, Christians, I beg you to wear your mask. If we can sacrifice our personal comfort to show to our neighbors we care about their physical well-being, that earns relational equity to communicate our concern for their spiritual health. If we value others spiritually but neglect their physical well-being, we will be offering the Bread of Life to closed mouths. We must use the values of the world around us to show our willingness to undergo suffering and discomfort in order to be bearers of good news that this finite life is not the end. Let us shed our hollow masks of self-sufficiency that we have worn so many Sundays before with empty smiles and cute quips about how fine we are. Instead let us put on physical masks to show to our neighbors and communities that we value the most vulnerable among us and seek to be an example of loving our neighbors regardless of the cost because that is the manner in which God first loved us; ignoring the cost of His own Son, Jesus Christ, so that a wretched and sinful creation might have hope of infinite perfection in Him.
Every Christian must reconcile their self with the Holy Spirit. That is a messy business but it is the work of being sanctified. As we look at the wager before us, how can anything outweigh the duty of a Christian? Paschal had the right of it: no sacrifice here could ever match the richness of eternity with God. If we remove our hands from the scales that way self-interest and Kingdom interest, the conclusion is inescapable. Even the Apostle Paul himself presents this truth: “I consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ.” The logical next step then is be an active part of helping others to this same Spiritual maturity. Paul certainly seems in coherence with Paschal. So Christians how do we count the cost of this wager? Will you wear your mask?