Jesus and Face Masks

Martin Thielen

October 1, 2020

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health recently said, “Masks have undoubtedly protected people from infections and saved lives. It is heartbreaking to see that this has become a political statement because that should have never happened. This is about public health, and it shouldn’t matter what your politics are.”

However, like most everything else in America these days, politics do matter, even when it comes to protective face masks. For example, last week I heard about a man who took a face mask, poured lighter fluid on it, set the mask on fire, then cooked a hot dog on the open flames.

Last week, at a political rally in Arizona, which is in the midst of a massive increase in COVID cases, numerous people called the coronavirus a “scamdemic.” Almost no one at the rally of three thousand people wore masks.

One unmasked young female attendee said, “I’m attending this Trump rally to keep my state red.” She admitted her grandparents were vulnerable to the virus but said she was “trying to keep my mind off of that reality.”

One person recently said of masks, “Remove your submission muzzle because you are not a sheep.” So the culture wars continue at warp speed, even over efforts to help mitigate a pandemic.

I get that Americans are highly individualistic. We want our rights. So we don’t take kindly to anybody, including the government, when they try to take away our individual liberties. In short, we live in a “me” culture. It’s all about individual freedom and individual rights. But inconveniently, the Christian faith is not a “me” religion but a “we” religion.

Jesus could not be clearer. When asked what matters most, he said, “Love God and love your neighbor.” Jesus didn’t care much about individual rights. Instead, he cared about protecting the weak, the sick, the marginalized, and the most vulnerable among us. The Christian faith seeks to build up the common good. It does not promote selfish individualism.

Christians often ask the question, “What would Jesus do?” On the matter of putting up with minor inconveniences like wearing a mask in public—to help protect people from illness and even death—the answer to that question seems obvious.

In this heated mask debate across America, the popular phrase, “Don’t be a sheep” is deeply ironic. Because, according to Scripture, Christian believers actually are sheep. Psalm 23 says, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Jesus called himself “the good Shepherd.”

As followers of Jesus, we are called to follow that Shepherd. And he calls us to help protect others, especially vulnerable ones, even if it means relinquishing some of our individual liberties.

So, rather than getting worked up about minor sacrifices and demanding our individual rights, let’s follow the good Shepherd and have compassion for the entire flock—especially the oldest and the sickest among us. Let’s care a little bit less about “me” and a little bit more about “we.” Just like Jesus.