As Don Young scoffed at mask mandates, Lora Reinbold threw a tantrum on social media, and Dan Sullivan snapped at a colleague asking him to mask up, I realized these civil leaders are reflecting the views of their outspoken, freedom-worshiping constituents, but not those of true Christians. While real followers of Christ may not get the most airtime, we are quietly protecting our neighbors by wearing masks, social distancing and respecting the right to life of those around us.
Jesus taught that the most essential commandments are “to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, strength, souls and minds; and to love others as much as we love ourselves” (Luke 10:27). As Christians, all we say and do is tied to these two commandments. Masks do protect the wearer, but they offer greater protection to others we might unknowingly harm. They are therefore a mark of our faithfulness to our God. Apostle Paul wrote: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3). Akin to this is the covenant that we will bear one another’s burdens. Social distancing and masking bear others’ burdens of old age, compromised immune systems, and ill health. These simple actions show our love for our fellow men and affirm we are our brothers’ keepers.
Those who shun masks and social distancing not only disregard God’s utmost law, they are also submitting to the temptations of evil. Christians do not believe in tempting the Lord our God. We avoid testing our God by shunning risky behaviors: We teach our children to look both ways, not talk to strangers, buckle their seatbelts and wash their hands. These misguided Christians are instead partaking in risky behavior and forcing their God’s hand — the equivalent of encouraging a child to cross a street blindfolded, trusting whatever happens is God’s will. They have succumbed to that reassurance the devil offered Jesus when persuading him to jump off the temple — “‘He will order his angels to guard and protect you’” (Matthew 4:6). Refusing COVID-19 precautions is the modern day equivalent of putting our God to the test.
And now we come to freedom, that overarching idol for many non-Christians and, unfortunately, some outspoken, wayward Christians. I do not blame confused Christians for misunderstanding the freedom Jesus spoke of, but now they are assuming moral supremacy and premeditatedly condemning others to death. It is true that socio-political liberty is essential for religious freedom. Jesus came as the savior to a people expecting a military leader who would guide them to political freedom. Just as then, some today are likewise disappointed his freedom is personal and that he never proclaimed individual rights to be more essential to salvation than caring for others. Focusing on and asserting one’s own personal rights is concern for self. As is being dismissive of others’ health situations by saying the pandemic is overblown. These attitudes show no empathy for the very real fear and vulnerability others feel about COVID-19 and also willfully ignore God’s most important command to love others. In issuing social distancing and masking guidelines, the intent of our civic leaders is not to gain power over the faithful. Rather, the intent is to protect the right to health and life, manage hospital capacity and save our economy. These deceived Christians are also failing to consider what they are being asked to do. They are being asked to follow Jesus’s counsel, by their authorities. “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil but living as servants of God. Honor everyone.” (1 Peter 2:16-17).
This pandemic is an opportunity for everyone, even some hard-hearted Christians, to self-examine. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13). We abhor that there are people in our community who are sickening and killing their neighbors to defend their own personal freedoms. If Christian, these people appear godly, but are really masquerading evil as righteousness. Thankfully, our civic and public health leaders are not asking us to lay down our lives. They ask us to obey a lesser love — that we sacrifice some pleasures, preferences and spiritual/emotional needs. Masking is hard, as health care workers on 12-hour shifts can attest. Physical distancing is hard, requiring creative effort. As Christians, we must deny ourselves, take up these small crosses and follow Him (Mark 8:34). If their Christian constituents are willing to give the greatest gesture of love, will our politicians please offer these lesser gestures? Are they willing to stop mocking the meek around them who are obeying Christ? Are they willing to do your small part in preserving good health and years of life for your constituents? Please, let’s work together to respect the right to life, open schools, save our economy and above all, love our neighbors.
Wendy Gorski, a Christian, lives in Eagle River.