Should People Wear Masks as Churches Re-open?

The issue of mask wearing has become a political hot potato not a public health issue. The Detroit Free Press article regarding this is: here

But what about in church? Should people be required to wear masks in church? What if the mask deniers are right? What if wearing a mask is not helping the control of Coronavirus? What if the mask wearers are right and the potential for spreading the virus is magnified by non-mask wearers?

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul faced a similar dilemma from which we can draw parallels to today’s mask vs. non-mask debate. The issue in Corinth wasn’t about masks in a pandemic, but eating or not eating meat sacrificed to idols.

When pagans ate the meat sacrificed to idols, it was an act of worship. The leftover uneaten meat sacrificed to pagan idols at the pagan temple was later sold in the market. In a city like Corinth (which had many pagan temples), sacrificed meat was far cheaper and more available than non-sacrificed meat. So the question was: Should Christians eat meat that was cheaper, albeit sacrificed to a phony-baloney idol?

Sacrificed meat eaters said, “The idols are fake. Jesus is real. The only thing better than a tasty lamb chop is a tasty cheap lamb chop.”

Non-Sacrificed meat eaters said, “I came out of a pagan lifestyle. Before Jesus, I ate sacrificed meat and worshipped idols that I now know are fake. If I were to eat meat sacrificed in honor of a fake god, it would be a terrible reminder of my sinful past.”

Both camps loved Jesus but came to different conclusions moving forward.

Paul was in the “I like a good cheap lamb chop” camp, but he also wanted to be sensitive to the former pagans. He concluded by writing, “Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:32-33). In other words, Paul told those who were OK eating the once sacrificed lamb chops that cheap meat wasn’t worth alienating the non-eaters of sacrificed meat and could possibly hinder their walk with Jesus.

Like in Paul’s day, the lines in the church are being drawn into two camps: Mask wearers and non-mask wearers. Mask wearers are saying, “I want to keep everyone safe. I don’t want to infect anyone with my germs.” While non-mask wearers are saying, “The Covid-19 shut down is a big brouhaha about nothing. Let’s get on with life.” Both camps want to get back and worship God. Both camps love Jesus but come to very different conclusions in moving forward.

It seems that our options are limited as we open our churches. Which non-Christian do you want to offend? Mask wearers or non-mask wearers?

Let’s say both a mask wearer and non-mask wearing non-Christian started watching on-line services during the quarantine and decided to come check out Jesus for themselves. The non-mask wearer, non-Christian types may come to the church doors and when offered a mask, might say, “No thanks, I’ll be back when I don’t have to wear a mask,” and leave. One the other hand, the mask wearing non-Christian walking into a church filled with non-mask wearing Christians would turn around, never come back and saying, “Those people do not care about their neighbor.”

Mask or no mask our job is to win people to Jesus.

Let’s be sensitive to non-believers coming through our doors from both camps. To my non-mask wearing friends, I would say, “Wearing a mask for an hour in church is worth the inconvenience if an unbelieving mask wearer hears about Jesus.” If we are going to err let’s do it on the side of proclaiming the message that we love our neighbors, protect them and doing everything we can to win them to Jesus. That’s where Paul seemingly lands in the eat sacrificed meat vs. don’t eat sacrificed meat question in 1 Corinthians. He wrote: “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” 1 Corinthians 10:24

In the Great Meat Sacrificed to Idols Debate of the first century and in the mask vs. non-mask debate of 2020, the advice is the same, let’s seek the good of our neighbor.

6 thoughts on “Should People Wear Masks as Churches Re-open?

  1. Christine Josephson

    Waymaker, miracle worker, promise keeper, light in the darkness. My God that is who you are.
    I’m not a slave to fear, I am a child of God.
    Victory in Jesus
    Does this sound like a mask wearer to you?

    1. Rob Prince Post author

      Thank you for you reply Christine. For me mask wearing isn’t a matter of fear at all, but one of loving my mask wearing fearful or sick, non-Christian neighbor. Their life and need for Jesus trumps my inconvenience of wearing a mask in my mind. I am wrapping up a sermon series today titled: FEAR KNOT. It’s been five weeks of teaching on how the Bible tells us over and over again to fear not. I’d encourage you to check it out.

  2. Lysa Fischer

    Thank you, Pastor Rob. For me, I sit back in meditation of Exodus 12:3-12. The Israelites were given specific instructions – commanded – to use “a bunch” of hyssop dipped into the blood of a year-old lamb without defect that had been slaughtered at midnight, use it to mark the top and both sides of their door, and to remain inside until the next morning because the LORD was going to pass through the land striking down first born. The Israelites could have reasoned that God would save them without doing that because, after all, they were His people. He knew them by name and exactly where they lived. And He had plans to deliver them. What could go wrong? They trusted in His love and faithfulness to protect them…. but they chose to follow instructions; to do as commanded. Each sacrificed for their household and in some cases, for their neighbor. They painted the doors of their homes exactly as told – and they stayed inside. I could write a book about the countless specific ways God has wrapped me in His faithful love and protection all of my life, but I choose to honor the warnings and the “command” to wear a mask as my gift of kindness and protection of my neighbor, and to stay inside. To be clear, neither the governor nor a pandemic expert are my gods, but I know the voice of wisdom and the opportunity God provides to love my neighbor as myself. Whether wearing a mask describes my comfort zone or calls me to step out of my box to wear one, I love and embrace the opportunity to be kindness in my community and within my church building.

  3. mom2nolie

    Rob, I appreciate where you are coming from, and yes, we need to do what we can to make unbelievers, visitors, and new Christians feel comfortable participating in our services.

    I am concerned, however, with your strict “definition” of what you believe mask wearers and non-mask wearers believe:

    ** “Like in Paul’s day, the lines in the church are being drawn into two camps: Mask wearers and non-mask wearers. 1) Mask wearers are saying, “I want to keep everyone safe. I don’t want to infect anyone with my germs.” 2) While non-mask wearers are saying, “The Covid-19 shut down is a big brouhaha about nothing. Let’s get on with life.” **

    You are assigning motives to people and assuming there are only 2 opinions to be had. That is inaccurate. This is not a cut and dried issue.

    Some people also fall into these categories:

    3) Many mask wearers have been on the receiving end of great negativity and harsh words (and even worse) when they did not have a mask on, so now they wear the mask out of self-preservation and fear.

    4) Other individuals have chosen to not wear a mask because they have spent a great deal of time researching and reading studies and articles written by doctors and medical professionals. They have come to a place of confidence that wearing a mask is not helpful (for many reasons) if the individual is healthy. They have even read recent studies of the harmful health effects for a healthy person to wear a mask.

    5) And there are some folks who are just plain confused and don’t know what they believe or what the right choice is since there is so much conflicting information floating around.

    I think maybe the overarching message should be GRACE. Christ-followers should always show love, patience, and grace to those who feel differently than we do. And in this time of “social distancing”, we don’t force ourselves on people, we don’t insist on a hug or handshake, we keep our physical distance for those who need that…but at all times we show GRACE.

    Lastly, if we are consistently following the leading of our Holy Spirit, He will lead our choices and behaviors in different circumstances. And He will handle the details and the outcome.

    In Him,
    {Worship Leader and Blessed Wife of a Nazarene Senior Pastor}

    1. Rob Prince Post author

      Jennifer… I agree with much of what you said. Clearly there are more nuances in the discussion of moving forward than the simple version I put forth in a 700 word blog post (I try to keep my post under 500 words). This was meant to be a discussion starter. I think it achieved that goal. I acknowledge that I am not an epidemiologist or economist, I am a pastor tasked with making decisions based on my understanding of complex subjects and my church’s health and well being of the parishioners and community. I am not all-knowing, always right, or an expert. I am just a pastor trying to make the best decisions filled with a variety of choices and with information that changes almost daily. I think my main point was from 1 Corinthians 10: “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” Seems like that should be our guiding principle. Following Jesus great commandment to Loving God and loving our neighbor (whichever camp a neighbor happens to reside in) should be our top priority. God bless and thank you for your response.

      1. mom2nsw

        Yes, there must always be love–of and for God and our neighbor. That is what we Christ-followers are called to do.

        I believe that giving our church members and attendees the freedom to chose “to wear or not wear” a mask can be handled in a way that demonstrates love and respect and grace and care for our neighbors…all at the same time 🙂

        God bless you and your congregation!

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