SARS-CoV-2 hit the US over a year ago. Despite the worldwide scourge, many still felt that the pandemic was a hoax or another attempt at government control. Some nations took it seriously. Others did not. But this coronavirus plays no favorites. It does not respect politics or religion. It follows the rules of basic biology.
Whether this pandemic started with a laboratory leak or wet market, no one can argue that we’ve lost too many lives because of it. And for the survivors, many still deal with long-haul symptoms months after infection. And then there’s the mask debate. (Insert eyeroll.) Do we really need to wear them? Do they even work? (Yes and Yes.) But they’re so uncomfortable. If you want to wear one, wear one. If you don’t then don’t. I know people who got COVID despite wearing masks. (Masks are designed to protect others, not the wearer.) Besides, no one has the right to make me wear one.
I’ll probably get beaten up afterschool for this post. But after 12 months, I can’t hold this in any longer: I’m not sure why people complain about a thin piece of cloth or paper on their faces. At work my N95 goes on at 8am and it doesn’t come off for 5 hours until my short lunch, after which is goes back on for another 3 hours. I wear gel bandages on my nose and cheekbones to prevent bruises and cuts from hours of the N95 mask suction-cupped and digging into my face. As a healthcare worker, I understand uncomfortable masks. To protect myself during the aerosol-generating procedures, I also have to wear a surgical cap, scrubs, yellow plastic gown, face shield, and gloves. COVID-19 infection control protocols and PPE make me want to retire. So imagine my jaw drop (since there’s no way you can see it through my PPE) when patients complain to us about having to wear a thin non-conforming mask while they are in our offices for 30-40 minutes. Do they not see us sweating in the monkey suits we must wear all day? Do they not see my safety goggles fog up while trying to explain a diagnosis and treatment plan? And I’m not even on the front-line. I’m not knowingly treating COVID patients.
I get it. We want things to go back to normal. As an extrovert, I don’t enjoy six feet apart. With one year of social distancing and virtual church, I’m dying here. I miss having women in my living room each week for Bible study. I miss dinners out, pool parties, and entertaining at home. My husband and I miss our families; we miss movie theatres. Some would say he and I take extreme measures. But many states are now seeing a fourth surge in COVID cases. What an exhausting uphill battle for those working overtime on the front lines. According to the Centers for Disease Control, only 15% of the US has gotten fully vaccinated at this time. Herd immunity takes place when around 70% or more people have antibodies. We have just a few more months to go. We have come so far. It’s too soon to let our guards down.
As a child I hated cars. Or at least riding in them. My parents had to place clear vinyl over the back seats. I also had to ride on an empty stomach. One false turn meant Clean Up on Aisle Seven. And being strapped in with a seat belt only added to my anguish. I felt boxed in and restricted.
Of course, now as a Safety Freak, I will buckle up even where most don’t: in a taxicab, a ride-share van to the airport, a bus. I still dislike them, though. And I could refuse to wear one. Seatbelt laws technically violate personal freedom and comfort. The government should have no say in that. But as with all things, just because I can it doesn’t mean I should (1 Corinthians 10:23.). If you really trusted God, you would not be afraid of COVID. I do trust God. Yet I still wear a seatbelt.
It seems that those who claim to follow hard after Jesus also insist on preserving their rights. When did Jesus exhort us to forsake our neighbors and focus on personal rights? Jesus teaches us to surrender our rights. Clinging to rights is by far an American notion—not a biblical one. Masks protect other people. This is not new information. They protect the elderly. The diabetic. The cardiac and cancer patients. The vulnerable and unvaccinated. Refusing to wear masks because it violates one’s civil liberties is the opposite of loving one’s neighbor.
Would Jesus wear a mask right now? Based on how Scripture describes him, I think he would. Not because he would fear catching COVID, or doesn’t “trust God.” I think Jesus would wear a mask because it’s an act of selflessness. How can we show love to our non-vaccinated neighbors at this time? By wearing those masks. Jesus gave up his rights for our freedom. He had nothing personal to gain out of that deal. That is the picture of true sacrificial servanthood. That is how Jesus loved his neighbors.