For several months, now, I have been taking a break from adding content to this website in order to finish writing a book about spiritual gifts. However, today the Lord broad-sided me with a revelation that is so relevant and timely, I had to share.
As we all know, there is a tremendous debate going on regarding the efficacy of wearing face coverings and social distancing in order to prevent the spread of this year’s airborne flu, COVID-19. On the left, you have a host of people saying that this flu is unprecedented and deadly and that we need to take whatever measures we can to protect ourselves from this pandemic sweeping the world and decimating its population. On the right, you have at least as many people convinced it is “just another flu” and that we should do as common sense dictates. Those concerned about this Corona virus say we should wear masks, stay home, stay six feet apart wherever we go and sanitize every surface. The other camp says we should wash our hands, stay home if we’re sick, cover our coughs and otherwise go about our business as usual.
The Bible doesn’t indicate that either response to this disease is more or less right. In the case of other highly infectious diseases, it directs only the sick to wear face coverings, be quarantined and keep their distance from the healthy, but then to gradually re-enter society once God makes them well (Leviticus 3:1-46 & 14:1-32, 15:1-15). Those who knowingly come in contact with bodily fluids, a dead person or animal or other potential pathogens are to dispose of contaminated foods, sanitize or destroy other items, wash themselves and their clothes thoroughly, separate themselves from others for a set period, and then resume their regular activities (Lev. 11:24-28 & 31-39, 15:5-12 & 16-30; Numbers 19:11-22; Deuteronomy 23:10-11).
Those who habitually engage in the healthy practices prescribed in God’s Word and who live lives that please Him have no need to fear disease, according to such scriptures as Exodus 15:26, Deuteronomy 7:15 and Psalm 91. However, Jesus disregarded laws about touching those considered unclean upon many occasions when He sought to bring healing or resurrection (e.g.—Matthew 8:2-3 & 14-15, 9:18-25; Luke 7:12-15 & 22:50-51).
Believing that modern science and medicine have advanced in their understanding of infectious diseases since Bible times, some people have taken to heart what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and other government entities have advised to curb the spread of the Corona virus/COVID-19. They are self-quarantining, wearing masks, sanitizing themselves and other things religiously and social distancing—even when they are not sick or exposed to someone who is infected. And they expect everyone, including those who are not sick, to do likewise. They feel disrespected, unsafe and angry when they see people who are not doing all these things, as well.
Conversely, those who believe God will protect them are offended at those demanding that they take what they consider to be extreme measures to prevent the spread of the disease. They feel their Constitutional rights have been violated, and their personal freedoms infringed. Many believe that the wearing of masks or refraining from physical contact is not only not helpful, but is unhealthy.
We’ve all been frustrated by this disease and the various responses to it. We’ve all had moments when we feel unheard and uncared for, like no one is listening to our opinions or respecting our desires. In our states, communities and workplaces—even in our own homes and churches—we are divided. But this should not be!
Today, while I was in church, the Lord challenged me to take a look at Romans 14 in light of this current conflict. I was blown away!
Stop for a moment right now and try it for yourself. In each instance that talks about people not eating meat, substitute verbiage that refers to those who feel we should all be wearing masks, etc. In each place where it talks about people who think it’s fine to eat meat, substitute verbiage referring to folks who don’t think masks and whatnot are necessary. Do the same thing in the verses that talk about observing special religious holidays. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you, as you do. Then come back to this blog and read my conclusion.
Here’s what I gathered from that passage: Let’s not quarrel or judge each other about whether or not to wear masks. Those “weak in faith” are not wrong to desire the security of social distancing and physical barriers to decrease the chance of transmitting a disease that has shortened the lives of many. On the other hand, those who trust in the power of God to keep them safe are not wrong to do so. But we need to respect each other’s choices, just as the Apostle Paul taught in Romans 14.
God intends for His people to be unified, not divided. He is much less concerned about how we handle a situation that is not directly addressed in the Bible or is primarily cultural in nature than He is how we respond to one another. It’s not a sin to wear a mask or not wear a mask. But it is a sin to argue and judge one another over whether we do or not. The more mature, loving and Christ-like response is to do what you feel is best, unless it violates the directives of those God has placed in authority over you or makes someone else likely to violate his/her conscience. It’s not our job to convince others of the rightness of our position or the wrongness of theirs. It is our job to love and respect one another and to mutually submit to one another—especially within the Body of Christ (c.f.—Galatians 5:13, Ephesians 5:21 & Philippians 2:3).
The next time you are tempted to give someone a hard time about wearing or not wearing a mask, remember the admonition of Paul in Romans 14:1 in the God’s Word version, “Welcome people who are weak in faith, but don’t get into an argument over differences of opinion.” Verse 13 is good, too: “So let’s stop criticizing each other. Instead, you should decide never to do anything that would make other Christians have doubts or lose their faith.” And finally, verse 19: “So let’s pursue those things which bring peace and which are good for each other.”
The bottom line is, look for common ground. Don’t be drawn into a debate over things that aren’t directly addressed in Scripture. Build each other up and find ways to work together for the good of all, rather than pointing fingers and calling names. We all belong to God and each other. We need to follow His direction for ourselves and be gracious toward those who feel equally as strongly led to do something different.
Love God, love each other. That’s what leads to overall health in our own lives and the lives of others—whether in body, soul or spirit!