Faith, Fear, and Face Masks
And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world. So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. Acts 11:28-29
I’ve been surprised by how controversial face masks have become. Some feel that everyone should wear them all the time, while others find masks ridiculous. In my experience, hatred of masks often burns hot in conservative Christian circles. Practice faith not fear, I’ve heard, meaning that if one truly believes, he or she shouldn’t have to wear a mask (or a seatbelt I presume). To be fair, on the other side, there are those who would allow Covid-19 to rule our lives. If they were in charge, we’d all stay locked in our homes as long as it took for the virus to go away.
Here though, I’m going to address the idea that faith means we don’t have to do anything. With this line of thought, preparing for or attempting to prevent a thing, means that we’re living in fear, not practicing faith. True faith, according to this conviction, means that we just go on living our lives as if nothing has changed. God will protect us, so we don’t have to do anything.
If my addiction taught me anything though, it’s that faith doesn’t mean I sit back and change nothing. Faith means I actively engage in obedience by carrying out God’s will.
As a physician, I know that Covid-19 is going to kill many times more people than influenza. I know that masks decrease the spread of respiratory droplets (that’s why we’ve worn them in the operating room for years). I hope that a vaccine is on the way soon. So, it’s a small sacrifice for me to wear my mask to the grocery store. This isn’t living in fear. It’s just a small action I can take to be responsible.
Today’s passage illustrates this action faith. In the story, a man named Agabus was given foreknowledge of a famine, so his fellow Christians did what they could to prepare for it. They didn’t sit back, insisting that faith meant doing nothing. They acted in obedience to the knowledge God had given them. They didn’t stop living their lives, but they did what they could to mitigate the approaching disaster.
I don’t want to stop living my life because of Covid-19 and to be fair, I’m not great at always wearing my mask. At the grocery store though, I feel I’m just being considerate of others, doing what I can to slow the spread. At work, it’s just part of my job. This isn’t living in fear. For me, this is simply doing what’s healthy and right.
I don’t want to live in fear, but neither do I want to use my faith as an excuse to not do what I should, just because I find it inconvenient.