Are Mandated Masks for Worship Biblical?

Man, I have been wrestling with this question for MONTHS. Regardless what your current opinion is, I’d like to encourage you to follow me on this thought train through Scripture and just hear me out as I share with you my process of prayer and meditation on the subject over the last few months. And I can tell you, I have been praying like I haven’t prayed in a hot minute. Something about the newborn/EBF infant phase just drains me dry to the point that many times the only prayer I can offer up is “Please God, help me make it through this day with out shouting at my kids…again.” I need God’s grace, infinitely. And I present the following thoughts to you as the results of my own seeking of God and His Word and striving to walk in compassionate grace as I discern what is good, beautiful, and true.

My current place of worship recently reopened its doors after nearly 3 months of re-closures in June/July, after a county-wide “spike” in covid numbers following the first reopening in June. Suffice it to say, there are congregation members across the spectrum of wanting to be closed and safe and open and gathered.

Let me first say this: to say that closed is safe implies that open is unsafe…or dangerous. That is a false dichotomy.

It is also a false dichotomy to say that those who willingly wear masks do so out of love for eachother. While that in itself may be true, the inverse of that statement is false- choosing not to wear a mask does not mean you hate people, and want to kill grannies by being “cavalier and careless”. That is virtue signaling, and presumes that mask-wearing equates moral superiority.

So now that we’ve gotten that straight, let’s address the biblical grounds for mandating masks, shall we?

In a previous post, I discussed the biblical grounds for gathering as the Body of Christ for worship.

This post is more focused on whether or not making masks mandatory in order for congregants to worship is biblical. Let’s dig in.

Arguments in favor of masks

Scripture gives us the model of Jesus Christ to emulate as we seek to be holy. He set the standard for purity, moral integrity, mercy, compassion, selflessness- all of those qualities we readily attribute to the person of Jesus Christ. He also encouraged believers to be servants to all, and to walk in all humility.

Respect for the At-Risk

In this regard, the donning of a mask out of respect for at-risk people groups seems to fall in line with “thinking of others as better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3) or “loving your neighbor as yourself”(Matthew 19:19).

In Submission to Authority

Our state government has not put any mandate in place regarding the wearing of a mask. However, the church leadership at the district (? Don’t quote me on that) level has mandated congregants wear mask in order to gather (and they use the term,) safely for worship. As that structure is put in place for the purpose of rightly leading church members, their position of authority ought to be respected.

  • Romans 13

Arguments opposed to masks

The CDC guidelines have been backpedaled and changed at breakneck speed. The minute they realize the inherent contradictions in their mandates or recommendations, data is lost, posts are deleted, and no one knows what is true anymore.

The fact remains that the way masks are being used and required is not in fact the way they correctly function. And outside of a sterile environment, surgical masks are also useless against the spread of a virus.

As the CDC warned, “cloth masks will become mildew ridden within 30 minutes.” Couple points here: 1) mold and mildew respiration are very serious. Arguably moreso in people with asthmatic conditions 2) what does the Bible teach about mildew? It’s unclean. Ritual purity laws have their place today. Are we saved (from sin and hellfire) by them? No. But they are and should be considered “best practice.” The way I see it, God is not arbitrary and every part of His word to us is relevant and has purpose and intent. In the case of mildew, it was for the sake of cleanliness and hygiene. (Deut. 28:22; 7 verses for your consideration)

3) Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been to any church service that lasted less than 30 minutes. Ever.

My personal convictions

First off, God and God alone has the authority to set parameters on worship…because it belongs to Him. He demands that we

  1. Worship in Spirit and Truth- how can we worship in Truth if we are contradicting His Word? How can we accept masks as truth when evidence points to the fallacious nature of their efficacy, and detrimental impact on both fellowship, worship, praise, and physical health (mildew inhalation)? (John 4:23-24)
  2. Worship in song- the worship is not for people, it is from people unto God. To abstain from singing praise to God is to withhold the worship He is due. You may as well just stay home and forget attendance altogether. The idea that singing should be eliminated from services because of coronavirus risk is nothing but withholding worship from God in the same way withholding the tithe is robbing God (Malachi 3:8). It is heretical. And it violates commands in Scripture to sing praise to God. (Zechariah 14:17; Psalm 68:4)
  3. Fear God above man- we should “fear God and honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17) except in such cases as “honoring the emperor” would contradict a conviction from God (Daniel 3; Acts 4:19, 5:29; Joshua 1:9 etc.) The church leadership has no right to impose restrictions on worship that are not explicitly Biblical, while at the same time refusing to enforce those which are explicitly stated in Scripture. (1 Corinthians 11; 1 Timothy 2:12-14; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Hebrews 10:25)
  4. It creates a false dichotomy- not only is it unscriptural, unnecessary, and ineffective, it creates division within the body between those who do not wear masks out of personal conviction (such as myself) and those who choose to for personal reasons. It places an unnecessary yoke upon believers, makes worship impotent, and encourages a spirit of fear of a virus, and pads the egos of those who for the sake of moral virtue comply with the regulations.

I can’t make your decision for you. But I can assert my autonomy to make my own decision. And the church is actively alienating those who decline to wear masks for reasons of conviction. In that same vein, lack of childcare or support for families with young children alienates them from ministry and service in the body (Matthew 19:14; Mark 10:14). And to have nursery care provided “unofficially” undermines the integrity of the leadership who enforce the masks for the rest of the congregation. In essence, it disenfranchises young families from worship in the church, and it paints leadership into a corner of man-made rules and regulations on our worship from which Christ died to free us.

So I will not be wearing a mask for worship, because I do not believe they are biblical. If that means I have to worship in a separate room, alone with my 4 children, so be it. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)

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