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Wearing masks: Can't we all just get along?
A couple weeks ago, I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things. When I got there, I realized I forgot to put another mask in my vehicle after I had washed the other one, and I had to go home and get a new one. This was annoying, so believe me when I say I understand how wearing masks can be annoying, especially in a worship service. I understand why people would chafe at being told to wear a mask to retard the spread of COVID-19, but I do not understand the intensity of those feelings.
One person asked this on my pastor's personal Facebook profile:
Do Elders have the authority to require masks for corporate worship when God doesn't? Is that not something that falls under the sphere of the family?
Well, yes they do. The church requires people obey any number of laws. The church enforces occupancy limits and other aspects of the fire safety code. The church bans smoking and vaping in the church building in compliance with state and local smoking bans. The church follows local planning and zoning regulations in constructing the building when a different configuration might be more helpful. Do I need to go on?
Each church must decide for itself what to do regarding masks. I know of one local church that requested but did not require masks, until the county health department mandated it. It was only then that masks were required in worship, with exceptions for those with health conditions that make masks a hardship. Whether to obey or respectfully disobey an order for the congregation to wear a mask should be the decision of local elders, not people who write blog posts.
This is why our rhetoric must be restrained. We can disagree with mask requirements. We are not required to be robots who blindly follow everything we are told. But accusing churches who submit to the government's mask mandates of "statist idolatry" is sinful. It creates divisions in churches around the country and binds men's consciences that wearing a mask is indeed sinful.
This ought to be really simple: Submit to your elders and obey the mask requirement in worship. It is not an onerous command, and it is something that lasts less than an hour. The Monroe County Health Department has clarified that we do not have to wear masks during a sermon, only while singing, so it is a little less onerous than before. Above all else, do not incite schism in your church or other churches.
There is extremism on the other side as well. Some Christian leaders have suggested that not wearing a mask is akin to attempted murder. While one certainly could apply Biblical principles to wearing a mask (such as loving your neighbor and submitting to civil authorities) invoking murder is an extreme response. It also follows the trend of interpreting the words and actions of those we disagree with in the worst possible light, which ought to be especially unwelcome in the church and among Christians.
This is something where we can disagree without dividing or accusing each other of sin. It is unfortunate that the rancor and division that has occurred over COVID-19 policy in the secular sphere has infected the church and is causing harm to the body of Christ. It needs to stop, and a lot of people need to repent and ask both God and their brothers in Christ for forgiveness.