Debunked: What's Behind the Mask?
By Jake Sletten
There are moments in a pastor's tenure as an under-shepherd of Christ's Church when he believes that he must--for the good of the consciences of his flock--address a current issue that threatens to be a stumbling block to their faith. I have done this very thing with my own flock and I want to share it with you as well.
The relentless debate about mask wearing during this season of the COVID-19 continues to rage on and is met by more opinions than can possibly be counted. If you have been keeping up with social media, you have seen and read the same things I have: There are medical professionals who say "yes" to masks and there are others who believe that they don't serve much of a purpose--if any. No one can seem to agree on what to do. Wouldn't it be great if they could just reach a consensus? Then there would be peace at last. . .maybe.
Let me be perfectly clear: this article is not going to address whether or not mask wearing is beneficial. Instead, I wish to deal with a concerning trend that I believe is important to clarify in case you have found yourself struggling with it. The assertion thrown out in many Christian circles goes something like, "Your choice of whether or not to wear a mask is directly related to your faith in God or your lack thereof." This could not be further from the truth! Your decision to wear a mask or NOT is not linked to your faith in God.
If faith and mask-wearing were linked in this way, the inevitable conclusion to be drawn in many other situations is a tough pill to swallow. Cancer patients who take medication have a lack of faith, cancer patients who go for their yearly screening have a lack of faith, diabetes patients who take insulin have a lack of faith, the parachute jumper who double- and triple-checks his chute has a lack of faith. You simply can't assume this connection in any of these circumstances.
We are not Christian Scientists. Among other things, they teach that a true Christian can find healing in praying the right prayer and so they avoid many medical options. We do not believe, teach, or confess that good gifts like medicine, or measures of disease prevention and early detection, constitute a lack of faith in God. As Christians, we believe in the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, which all have their basis in Scripture. The First Article of the Apostles' Creed teaches that God is the sustainer and provider of our lives. He gifts us good things like medicine, doctors, nurses, and the like. According to the Fourth Petition of the Lord's Prayer, our good and gracious Father gives us all we need to support this body and life, as part of our daily bread. And according to the Fourth Commandment, people like police officers, fire fighters, doctors, nurses, and those who serve in organizations like health departments, are given to us by God as gifts for our good--that is, for our wellbeing.
Further, I encourage you to take care in the conversations that you might have with others about this issue. Though you may have sincere intentions, you also might be causing harm to the conscience of someone who is already battling with so much.
In 1 Corinthians 10:23-24, Paul speaks of the freedom we have as Christians and how it can be abused. "'Everything is permissible'--but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible'--but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others."
In chapter 8 Paul also writes, "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak…Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not make him stumble."
As Christians, you and I have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Christ to make sure that the use of our freedom given by Christ does not become a stumbling block to another's faith. We also have a responsibility as a called people to graciously sacrifice our "rights" so that others would not fall. . .just as Christ did for us.
If someone chooses to wear a mask in public places during this season, it does not mean that they lack faith. If someone is choosing to stay home right now instead of attending church because of COVID-19, it does not mean that they lack faith. If someone chooses not to wear a mask in public places during this season, it does not mean that they have greater faith.
In this moment, the enemy would love to have his way. Let us pray that the forces of evil in this world that seek to destroy the Church would be dashed to pieces. But mostly, let us remember that even in the midst of so many things we cannot understand, we can believe in and find our comfort in Christ's promise to us: that He is with us always, to the end of the age, and we can bring that same comfort to our neighbor (Matthew 28:20). Thanks be to Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of our faith! (Hebrews 12:2)
Rev. Jake Sletten is the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church and School in Freistatt, MO. He thinks the mission of Higher Things is exciting: to help raise up new generations of believers for the Gospel. He is husband to Courtney, and dad to MJ, Bradley, and Emma. He loves going on dates with his wife, grilling on his Weber, coaching his kids' basketball teams, watching basketball (mainly his Los Angeles Clippers), and reading books about dragons.
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