If you are undecided about whether or not to wear a mask these days, here’s another piece of data to consider: Jesus would wear a face mask. If you aren’t a Christian, I understand that is irrelevant information. But for those of us who claim to be followers of Christ and are still on the fence, it ought to be the deciding factor.
I’m confident that Jesus would wear a face mask because I know he wouldn’t be swayed by any of the reasons I hear people giving for not wearing one. Yes, they are uncomfortable and inconvenient. Yes, they make you look foolish. But the whole revelation of the incarnation (which is the 25-cent word Christians use for our belief that Jesus of Nazareth was God in the flesh living on earth) is that it was inconvenient and uncomfortable. It was God’s way of going out of his way — leaving the splendor and glory of heaven to live uncomfortably on earth, covering up his divinity with frail and imperfect human flesh.
So inconvenience and discomfort weren’t a deterrent for Jesus. And clearly, looking foolish wasn’t either. Jesus endured the considerably worse than uncomfortable death on the cross to break the power of sin and death and reconcile God and humanity. But instead of seeing the glory of that gift, humans have always dismissed it as weak and shameful — as St. Paul writes, the message of the cross has always been foolishness. Jesus didn’t care if he looked like a fool as he went about the process of saving everyone’s lives. Christians shouldn’t either.
But many people who refuse to wear a mask do so because they simply don’t believe that masks are necessary or helpful. Again, if you aren’t a follower of Jesus, believing it is a waste of time probably will stop you from masking up. But if you are a Christian, you should be wearing a mask — even if you do think they are useless. I could quote you lots of scripture to back this up — scriptures commanding those who are strong to take care for those who are weak, scriptures teaching believers to voluntarily limit our freedoms for the sake of others, scriptures about obeying local authorities, evangelistic training about becoming “all things to all people so that by all means” and conforming to local customs in order to share salvation.
But it all boils down to this. It doesn’t matter what you believe about wearing masks — it matters what those around you believe about wearing masks. Because we aren’t being asked to wear masks to protect ourselves, we are asked to wear masks to protect others. So when people see you not wearing a mask, those who agree with you might think you are smart and free. But those who believe the reasons government officials and scientists give us for wearing masks, those people look at you and think — ”that person doesn’t care if I die.”
The bottom line for Christians is this: Even if you believe that the fear surrounding COVID-19 is not justified, that fear is still real. And Jesus didn’t insult or belittle people who were afraid. He went out of his way to come alongside them. Jesus went out of his way to show — in his flesh — that their lives mattered to him. He fed people, even though they’d get hungry again. He healed people, even though they’d get sick again. He raised people from the dead, even though they would die again. He didn’t call them sheeple and lecture them about risks and personal responsibility. He cared for them in practical ways that showed his love for them. He didn’t mock those who were afraid. He relieved their fears.
Wearing a mask is a practical way to show that you love your neighbor, to lift the burden of someone who is afraid instead of adding to it. And if you don’t believe that masks are necessary and you wear one anyway — then that is an even more extraordinary witness of selfless love. Wearing a mask is uncomfortable and inconvenient and a lot of the time it makes you look foolish. But that’s a pretty good description of what it feels like to love somebody.