by Darryl G. Klassen
“MASKS REQUIRED TO ENTER THIS STORE,” read the sign taped to the window of a mall shop. This was not surprising to either my wife or myself. We put on our masks and walked in to look around.
What was mildly surprising was how inconsistently the rule was applied. Some stores required masks while others suggested it would be best to wear one. On a national scope, a major chain has announced that no shoppers will enter unless they wear a mask. Others may yet follow suit.
At a grocery store I recently went to, a worker was rearranging products on a shelf. She wore a mask. And yet the workers in the bakery and the deli did not. She was handling canned goods while the latter were breathing directly over foodstuffs.
Churches are grappling with how to interpret health requirements too. Some require masks as did a church in Atlanta, Georgia, that I tuned into on the internet. Others do not allow you to sing along with the worship team, lest you sing “moistly.” Many of our sisters and brothers are defiant and decry the use of masks in worship or in public.
The rising use of masks in businesses and churches is fraught with controversy. For some they are protection against the virus. A few, like myself, wear one for the sake of others in certain contexts. Masks are worn out of fear for the most part. A segment of the population believes that if they wear a mask they can walk through fire. Masks should come with a list of liabilities.
What does your church do with the question of masks?
As the popular worship song declares, “I’m no longer a slave to fear…” If you are afraid of getting sick, if you are afraid of getting others sick, if you are afraid of dying from the virus, or if you are simply afraid…sisters and brothers we have a problem.
The refrain continues: “…I am a child of God.” In this context, the song does not advocate for the removal of masks because “hey, I’m not afraid of anything.” In fact, we are not afraid, but we are mindful of our obligations to our neighbors. As a child of God transformed into the image of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, I have a responsibility to be a witness of love and compassion to my neighbor.
Does this mean that we should wear masks? Maybe. Paul wrote, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the masked I became a mask-wearer, in order to win the masked…” (1 Cor. 9:19-20a). Would he have said that?
Do we gain anything by mocking or deriding the fears of our neighbors who feel they must wear a mask to protect themselves? Or is there a greater motivation in humbling ourselves to wear a questionable piece of fabric? Love your neighbor as yourself.